Chime, a “neobank” serving millions, is racking up complaints from users who can’t access their cash. The company says it’s cracking down on an “extraordinary surge” in fraudulent deposits. That’s little consolation to customers caught in the fray.

The day after Jonathan Marrero’s federal stimulus payment landed in his bank account, he took his 5-year-old twins out for lunch at an Applebee’s near where he lives in New Jersey. When he went to pay, his only means of payment, a debit card issued by the hot financial technology startup Chime, was declined.

He didn’t understand why. Marrero had checked his account earlier that day and saw a balance of nearly $10,000. With the Applebee’s server standing next to him, he quickly pulled out his phone to check his Chime app, just as he had hundreds of times since he signed up in January.

Marrero couldn’t log in. He immediately checked his email and found a message from Chime that read, “We regret to inform you that we have made the decision to end our relationship with you at this time. Your spending account will be closed on March 18, 2021.”

He had no choice but to call his parents and have them pay the lunch bill. “I was so embarrassed,” said Marrero, a 32-year-old motorcycle technician. “I’m a grown man, and I was tearing up and everything.” Speaking of the $10,000 that he was suddenly locked out of, he added, “If it was $100, I wouldn’t sweat it. But it was everything I had for my kids.”

Marrero’s grievance is not unusual. Chime, which provides app-based banking services to an estimated 12 million customers, has according to experts been generating a high rate of complaints, with 920 filed at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau since April 15, 2020. “For a company that most people have never heard of, I think that’s a lot of complaints,” said Lauren Saunders of the National Consumer Law Center.

Many customers have told the CFPB that they can’t access their money or accounts, and that, among other things, Chime is slow to resolve problems. Of the 920 complaints filed about Chime, 197 were tagged as involving a “closed account.” The CFPB’s complaints are labeled inconsistently, and many of the other 723 also detail problems involving accounts that were closed against customers’ will. By comparison, Wells Fargo, a bank with six times as many customers and a lengthy recent history of misbehavior in its consumer bank, has 317 CFPB complaints tagged for closed accounts over the same time period. Marcus, the new online bank created by Goldman Sachs, with 4 million customers, has generated seven such complaints.

Customers have also filed 4,439 complaints against Chime at the Better Business Bureau, compared to 3,281 for Wells Fargo.

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