Are you shopping around for a new bank? Then you already know that the options are almost endless, especially if you’re considering an online institution like CIT Bank or Citizens Access. These web-only banks lack in-person branch options, but more than make up for it in features and higher interest rates on your savings.
Well, we want to make the decision a little easier for you. We have created the following guide, comparing Citizens Access and CIT banks, two online institutions offering similar products and rates. While there are some key differences between the two — likely making one a better choice for your banking needs — both are excellent choices for new banking customers.
Let’s talk a little bit about the products each bank offers, their features and services, each bank’s strengths, and the interest rates they provide. By the end, you should have a clear idea of which one is the right choice for you.
Why Choose an Online Bank?
Before we compare these two banks, let’s talk about why you’d want to choose an online bank in the first place.
For centuries, banks have been run out of local branches. These brick-and-mortar locations give customers a place to deposit funds, withdraw cash, open new accounts, and ask questions about their services. And until now, this model has worked pretty well.
We live in a different age now, though. With the advent of smartphones and ATMs, we can now do our banking anywhere, even having the ability to deposit checks from our couches. Online banks capitalize on this, forgoing the traditional brick-and-mortar business model (which saves them money) and offering feature- and interest-rich accounts that appeal to banking customers even more.
Some customers will still want a local branch, and that’s perfectly fine (in fact, some online banks have branch options). For the rest of us who probably wouldn’t even walk into a bank branch, though, we can earn more interest and get better features by opting for an online bank instead.
There is one thing to watch out for, though: online banks don’t always offer the full spectrum of banking products. Instead, many of them will pick and choose the types of accounts they offer to customers, meaning that you may need to do some comparison shopping before making your decision. That’s why we’re here.
The banking products you need could include:
- Checking accounts
- High-yield savings accounts
Depending on how you prefer to manage your accounts, you might also want a range of services and features. These could include:
- A mobile app for on-the-go account management
- ATM and/or check access
- Mobile check deposit
- FDIC-insured protection
- Brick-and-mortar locations (which select online banks will provide, though they’re very limited)
Both CIT Bank and Citizens Access offer a nice mix of account types, services, and features. This makes them both excellent options for anyone considering a new online bank for their funds.
|High-Yield Savings Account
|Money Market Accounts (MMAs)
|Certificates of Deposit (CDs)
The most basic banking need is the savings account. It gives us a safe place to put the money that we earn and spend everyday. Checking accounts today offer both paper checks and debit cards for spending, and allow us to manage our spending online as well as with traditional paper ledgers.
Not every bank offers checking accounts, though. In fact, neither CIT Bank nor Citizens Access offer one! However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t still consider these online banks for your savings needs.
Many experts even suggest keeping your daily spending (checking) and savings at separate banks, just as an added financial guardrail! Having an added step between you and your savings, or even just keeping it “out of sight, out of mind,” might be what you need to keep you on track with your financial goals.
With that said: while neither of these banks today offer checking accounts to customers, you should still consider their savings products. You can keep your checking account at another bank (even a local branch) and have the best of both worlds.
|Checking Account Offered?
|ATM debit card
|Local branch access
Summary: It’s a tie, as neither bank offers a checking account to customers.
High-Yield Savings Accounts
Here is where online banks really shine: the high-yield savings account.
These accounts are a great place to tuck your savings, whether it’s your emergency fund or you’re saving for something like a family vacation. And with an online bank, you’ll earn a significantly higher interest rate on your funds (hence the “high yield” part) than is the national average.
Both Citizens Access and CIT Bank have excellent high-yield savings account options for their customers. Each bank also offers enviable interest rates, maximizing your returns year after year.
|High-Yield Savings Offered?
|ATM debit card
|Above-average interest rate?
|Local branch access
Citizens Access: High-Yield Savings Accounts
One of the best interest rates around is the one offered by Citizens Access’ high-yield savings account. With this online bank, your funds can earn a rate that’s more than 28x the current national average, making it a great choice no matter what you’re saving for.
There is a $5,000 minimum deposit to open a savings account through Citizens Access. Once deposited, though, your funds will earn an impressive 2.25% APY (rate current as of December 10, 2018). This is not just significantly higher than the national average of 0.08% APY, but even dwarfs those rates offered by many competing online banks.
There are absolutely no fees involved with Citizens Access savings accounts. This means no fees to open an account, no monthly maintenance fees, no fees for deposits/withdrawals, no minimum balance requirements or fees, and no charges for any bank services.
Here’s what you’ll get with a Citizens Access savings account:
- No monthly fees
- No minimum balances
- Minimum deposit of $5,000 to open
- APY well above national average (and even above most online bank competitors!)
- Flat interest rate, regardless of balance held
- Mobile app with check deposit
Citizens Access is a branchless, cashless, and paperless bank. While this enables them to keep costs low — and offer you an impressive return on your savings — it also means that you can’t just drop by a local branch. If you need assistance with your account, though, you can simply give them a call. Customer service is available 7 days a week, or you can also send an email at any time.
Deposits can be made by depositing a check online, mailing a check to the bank, or transferring funds online. You won’t be able to make any wire transfers with Citizens Access.
There are also no ATM debit cards or paper checks offered with your account. If you need to make a withdrawal, you can initiate an online transfer to an external bank account. If needed, you can also call and request a check to be sent by the bank.
Just keep in mind that you’ll be limited to six withdrawals each month. This is a federal regulation, though, and not a bank rule… you’ll find it imposed with any savings account you choose.
CIT Bank: High-Yield Savings Accounts
Depending on how you save and how much you want to save, CIT Bank offers two different account options.
The first is their standard high-yield savings. This account offers a rate of 1.55% APY, regardless of the balance held. The other option is their Savings Builder account, offering you the ability to bump your rate up to 2.25% APY (rates current as of December 10, 2018).
To qualify for the Savings Builder’s higher rate, you need to either A) open your account with at least $100 and continue to make at least one deposit of $100+ each month, or B) maintain a minimum daily balance of $25,000. If you meet either of those requirements, you’ll earn the higher 2.25% APY rate; fail to meet either, and you’ll earn the standard 1.55% APY rate instead.
No matter which high-yield savings account you choose at CIT Bank, you’ll get:
- No minimum balance
- No monthly maintenance fees
- $100 required to open
- Interest rates that are ~12x the national average
- A mobile app for account management and check deposit
When you need to deposit funds, you can either transfer from another bank account, set up an incoming wire, deposit a check through the mobile app, or mail a paper check to the bank. Withdrawals can be made via ACH transfer online, outgoing wire (for a $10 fee), or by requesting a paper check from the bank. As with Citizens Access, you’re limited to the federal maximum of six withdrawals per month.
CIT Bank also does not offer ATM debit cards to their savings account customers.
Summary: While the banks offer the same interest rate and similar features, Citizens Access wins out for savings accounts. Their high flat-rate is available to all customers, whereas CIT Bank makes you meet certain monthly requirements to earn the higher tier.
Money Market Accounts (MMAs)
Many banking customers don’t know the difference between a savings account and a money market account, or MMA. And they are admittedly very similar — with some banks, they’re pretty much identical.
At some banks, MMAs can offer different interest rates on balances, or additional access options such as checkbooks or ATM debit cards. Whether or not you actually need an MMA, though, is really up to you and how you plan to use your savings. In many cases, they’re not beneficial enough to warrant choosing over a high-yield savings account.
CIT Bank offers an MMA option to customers, while Citizens Access does not. However, once you take a look at the features offered, you may decide that the CIT Bank MMA isn’t very different than the savings accounts available from either bank.
|Money Market Account Offered?
|ATM debit card
|Above-average interest rate?
|Local branch access
Citizens Access: Money Market Accounts
As mentioned, Citizens Access does not offer money market accounts. However, their high-yield savings accounts offer some of the most enviable savings rates around, making them well-worth considering over an MMA anyway.
CIT Bank: Money Market Accounts
You will find MMAs offered at CIT Bank. These savings vehicles will also earn you a higher interest rate than basic high-yield savings accounts at the same bank, though not as much as you could earn with the Savings Builder (or with the flat-rate offered by Citizens Access).
CIT Bank’s MMAs earn a flat interest rate of 1.85% APY (as of December 10, 2018). This is significantly higher than they offer on the bottom tier of their Savings Builder account and the flat rate offered by their basic high-yield savings account. However, if you can meet the requirements of the Savings Builder account each month (either make one or more deposits of $100+ each month or maintain a daily minimum balance of $25,000), and you’ll earn quite a bit more than the MMA can offer.
If you want to open a money market account at CIT Bank, there is a $100 minimum deposit required. There are no minimum balance requirements or monthly maintenance fees for the account, though.
You won’t get an ATM debit card or checks for your MMA through CIT Bank, which is one of the biggest selling points for MMAs versus savings accounts. However, the bank is planning to roll out a new bill-pay platform soon, which you’ll only be able to utilize from your money market account. This service will not be available for high-yield savings/Savings Builder customers.
With the MMA, you’ll still be limited to a maximum of six withdrawals each month. Go over that limit and you’ll be subject to a $10 fee per transaction beginning with the seventh (up to $50 per month total).
Depositing funds into your CIT Bank money market account can be done via mobile check deposit, incoming wire transfer, mailing in a check, or initiating an ACH transfer. Withdrawals can be made via ACH, outgoing wire, requesting a check from the bank, or using the new bill-pay system, when it becomes available.
Summary: If you insist on opening an MMA, CIT Bank can offer you that service. However, you would still earn more with a Citizens Access savings account than the CIT Bank MMA currently offers (with the same features).
Certificates of Deposit (CDs)
Savings accounts are great if you need the money available on short notice. This makes them optimal for things like an emergency fund.
However, there are also savings that we plan to hold for a longer period of time and, in turn, we can earn a higher rate of interest on them. This includes savings for things like the down payment on a home or car, savings for a future trip, a wedding fund, etc. Since you know you won’t be touching that money for a while, you can “lock” it away in a certificate of deposit, or CD.
CDs offer interest rates that are often significantly higher than those offered by savings accounts. You’ll get these impressive rates in return for essentially locking away your funds for a predetermined period of time.
|Term CD offered?
|No-Penalty CD offered?
|Early withdrawal penalties
|Above- average interest rate?
|6 – 48 months
|90 – 180 days’ interest
|6 – 60 months
|90 – 365 days’ interest
Citizens Access: Certificates of Deposit
I’ll be honest: I was pretty impressed by the rates offered on Citizens Access CDs. They’re quite a bit higher than most other banks are offering — even online banks! — and their early withdrawal penalties are also lower. If you want to lock your money away for anywhere from six months to four years, this is the place to maximize your return.
Citizens Access offers CDs ranging from 6-month to 4-year terms. The longer term you choose, the more your money will earn in the end. At-present, you will earn the following impressive rates on those products: (rates current as of December 10, 2018)
- 6-month CD at 2.20% APY
- 12-month CD at 2.70% APY
- 18-month CD at 2.75% APY
- 24-month CD at 2.90% APY
- 36-month CD at 3.05% APY
- 48-month CD at 3.10% APY
As you probably noticed, you will earn almost just as much by choosing a 6-month Citizens Access CD as you would with their savings accounts. This is impressive, as most banks only begin offering high CD rates (compared to savings account rates) once you hit the 12- or 18-month mark.
Their rates for 12-month CDs and beyond are also some of the best on the market. A 48-month certificate of deposit with Citizens Access will earn you as much, if not more, than the interest that other banks offer on 60- or 72-month CDs. So, you don’t have to lock your money away for nearly as long while still being able to net the same returns.
There is a minimum deposit of $5,000 to open a Citizens Access CD. There are no fees or monthly maintenance charges, though.
The most important thing to remember about CDs is that you cannot touch your principal balance once you’ve made your deposit. In exchange for that high interest rate, you’re agreeing to lock that money away and leave it alone. If you choose (or need) to pull out those funds before your CD matures, you’ll be subject to some notable fees.
These fees, called early withdrawal penalties, can easily eat up all of the interest you had earned. Depending on when you pull your funds, they could even dip into your principal balance. For Citizens Access CDs, the early withdrawal fees are pretty basic:
- If your term is 12 months or less, you’ll pay a fee equal to 90 days’ interest
- If your term is greater than 12 months, you’ll pay a fee equal to 180 days’ interest
Citizens Access does not offer no-penalty CDs.
CIT Bank: Certificates of Deposit
You have three different CD options to choose from at CIT Bank. Which one you choose depends on how much you want to save, how long you want to save it for, and whether you think you’ll need to pull your funds out early.
The first CD option is the standard term CD. At-present, CIT Bank has term CDs with the following returns: (rates current as of December 10, 2018)
- 6-month CD at 0.72% APY
- 12-month CD at 2.20% APY
- 13-month CD at 2.25% APY
- 18-month CD at 2.50% APY
- 24-month CD at 1.40% APY
- 36-month CD at 1.30% APY
- 48-month CD at 1.50% APY
- 60-month CD at 1.70% APY
Did you do a double-take when looking at that list, like I did? If so, you may have noticed that, unlike at most banks, CIT Bank CDs don’t necessarily offer a higher interest rate for longer terms. Instead, they cap out at 18 months; beginning with a 2-year term, you’ll actually earn a lower rate. This goes against the norm in the banking world.
Of course, the 18-month CD rate of 2.50% is still impressive and worth taking a look. However, it you’re considering any other length, you may want to do your due diligence in balancing a CD versus a savings account, to maximize your returns. The answer may surprise you.
The second certificate of deposit option at CIT Bank is the Jumbo CD. If you want to deposit a higher amount ($100,000 or more), you can opt for this product. With the jumbo CD, you can lock your rate in for a few years, securing the return on your bigger nest egg. Here are CIT Bank’s current rates for jumbo CDs:
- 2-year jumbo CD at 1.45% APY
- 3-year jumbo CD at 1.40% APY
- 4-year jumbo CD at 1.60% APY
- 5-year jumbo CD at 1.75% APY
Again, keep a close eye on those numbers. You will earn a smaller interest rate with a 3-year term than you would with a 2-year term, which is a bit unexpected. However, the rate jumps back up if you instead choose the 4- and 5-year terms.
It’s important to note that these rates are lower than offered with either the Savings Builder account or an 18-month term CD. Be sure to consider all of the possibilities before you make a decision for your savings.
With either of the CDs above, you’ll incur a fee for early principal withdrawal. Depending on the value of your CD, how long you held it, the original term length, and the rate you had locked in, this penalty can be painful. At CIT Bank, the early withdrawal penalties are as follows:
- For CD terms of 12 months or less, your penalty is 3 months’ worth of interest.
- For CD terms greater than 12 months up to 36 months, your penalty is 6 months’ worth of interest.
- For CD terms greater than 36 months, your penalty is 12 months’ worth of interest.
If you think that there’s even a chance that you will need to touch those funds before the CD reaches maturity, either opt for a savings account or go with a no-penalty CD. CIT Bank does offer a No-Penalty CD, as well, giving you the ability to lock in a great rate on a CD without the risk of early withdrawal penalties.
There is only one no-penalty CD choice from CIT Bank at-present:
- 11-month no-penalty CD at 2.05% APY
This doesn’t let you lock in the rate for very long (and offers you less in APY than you’d earn with Citizens Access’ savings account or CIT Bank’s Savings Builder). However, it’s a decent way to earn a higher-than-average rate for a shorter period of time.
There is a $1,000 minimum deposit to open a CD with CIT Bank, with the exception of the Jumbo CD which has a minimum deposit of $100,000. There are no monthly maintenance fees on any of their CD products.
Summary: Both banks offer term CDs, though Citizens Access’ interest rates are significantly higher than offered by other banks. If you need a no-penalty option, CIT Bank does have one; however, you would still earn more from a Citizens Access savings account (and retain flexibility with your funds).
It’s important to find a bank that offers you the highest interest rate on your funds. However, you should also ensure that the bank can meet all of your other needs, too.
You should compare each bank’s services and features to see which one can provide you with the accessibility, products, customer service, and features that you need most. You have to make sure that you can access your funds how and when you need, in addition to earning the most in returns.
Here’s a look at both Citizens Access and CIT Bank, and the features they each offer.
Citizens Access and CIT Bank are both FDIC insured. This means that if something happens to the bank or they fail, your funds are protected up to the maximum insured limits. Currently, these are up to $250,000 per depositor, per institution, and per ownership category.
Verdict: It’s a tie.
Both CIT Bank and Citizens Access are true online banks. Neither offers brick-and-mortar branch options, so you have no choice but to rely entirely on email and phone customer service. To conduct business, you’ll need to call, access your account online, or use their mobile app.
Verdict: It’s a tie.
Some online banks offer ATM debit cards for their customers, on certain account types. Unfortunately, you won’t find this at either CIT Bank or Citizens Access.
If you need to make withdrawals from either banks’ accounts, you will need to initiate online transfers, utilize outgoing wires (CIT Bank only), or request a check from the bank directly.
Verdict: It’s a tie.
If you’re anything like me, you are on your smartphone or tablet all day. This makes banking mobile apps so incredibly valuable, allowing you to access your accounts, manage funds, and even make account changes on the go, at any time of day.
CIT Bank offers a mobile app in addition to their online/web banking platforms, while Citizens Access has a mobile-ready website (meant to be easily navigated by any web platform, including your phone). Using either, you can view your accounts, move money, and deposit checks from your phone.
Citizens Access doesn’t technically have a mobile app; CIT Bank’s mobile app has a 4.6/5 rating in the App Store. However, CIT Bank’s app is a little less functional and comprehensive than it could be (and than Citizens Access’ website would be from your phone’s browser).
For example, if you need to initiate a transfer from an external account (even if they’ve previously been linked), you can’t do this on the app. Instead, you’ll need to do this online through the bank’s web platform.
Verdict: Citizens Access doesn’t have a mobile app, so CIT Bank has a slight edge here. However, CIT Bank’s app is limited, so in many ways, it’s equal to Citizens Access — you’ll still need to access the bank’s web platform from a browser to access certain features.
Mobile Check Deposit
Having an account at an online bank means that you’ll need an option for depositing checks, since you can’t visit your local teller. While you can always mail a check to the bank directly, this isn’t the most secure option; instead, you would benefit from a mobile check deposit feature.
Both CIT Bank and Citizens Access offer mobile check deposit capability. With CIT Bank, you can access this through the bank’s mobile app. At Citizens Access, you will be able to visit the bank’s web platform through your phone’s browser and deposit checks on the go.
Verdict: Both banks offer mobile check deposit, though CIT Bank’s mobile app makes the process slightly easier.
Which Bank Is Right for You?
It’s important to keep your money secure, while also being accessible and earning you as much in interest as possible. This makes it important to compare banks wisely before choosing, so you can find the right institution for you.
Online banks are a bit unique, in that you won’t have access to local services or even in-person customer service. Many online banks also cherry-pick the products that they offer; this means that you might not find everything you need at one bank. However, what online banks lack in local services and a variety of products, they typically make up for in savings returns.
You should also keep in mind that your banking needs change as time goes on. The bank that’s perfect for you today might not be right for you next year, or five years down the line. You might change your savings habits later on, too, making one bank’s rates more beneficial than another. That’s why it’s important to compare apples to apples, keeping your own personal habits and needs in mind.
Hopefully, this guide is able to give you a good idea of the products, services, and features that Citizens Access and CIT Bank offer. These are both excellent online banking options, giving customers the chance to maximize interest and find the features that suit them best.
While they are similar, though, one of them is likely to be a better option for you personally. For instance, if you want to earn the highest overall interest rates on both savings accounts CDs, Citizens Access is the bank to choose. Alternately, if you need a no-penalty CD, you should give CIT Bank a closer look.
Whichever bank you pick for your funds, you can rest assured knowing that you are choosing an online institution that offers you a safe, secure, and high-yield place to save.