Copyright 2003 Business Wire, Inc. 

Business Wire


November 17, 2003 Monday


DISTRIBUTION: Business Editors


LENGTH: 1068 words


HEADLINE: Citibank's New Access Account Offers Affordable 'Checkless' Checking and Other Financial Services for 'Unbanked' Consumers; 'Starter' Bank Account Will Also Appeal to Other Consumers


DATELINE: NEW YORK, Nov. 17, 2003



Citibank today introduced the new Citibank Access Account, the most comprehensive bank account specifically designed to meet the needs of the approximately 12 million United States households that do not fully utilize banking services - or any at all - and other consumers with limited banking transaction needs.

 "We know there are a lot of people in this country who don't participate in the banking system. They may feel they don't have enough money to open an account or think they can't afford one; they may be intimidated by the financial system, or just feel there is not an account that's right for them," said Ajay Banga, President of Retail Banking, North America at Citibank. "Most banks don't even have a product to offer them. We were determined to come up with a quality product that knocks down entry barriers and makes it easy for them to bank. The Citibank Access Account is designed to bring these people into the financial system and help them become part of mainstream America," Mr. Banga added.

 The Access Account is the only "starter" account offered by a major bank that offers such a wide range of low-cost and easy-to-use financial services. The Citibank Access Account will make it easy for consumers to improve their financial security and plan for the future. One of the account's major distinctions is "checkless" checking, because check writing has been identified as a major obstacle for many "unbanked" consumers.

 Citibank expects the Access Account will appeal to other important consumer groups, as well, given the simple financial solutions it offers. When the Access Account was piloted in Chicago earlier this year, Citibank found that a diverse range of customers was attracted to it, including recent immigrants, senior citizens, students, technology-savvy people, and consumers with limited banking needs.

 In a paper to be published in the Yale Journal on Regulation in January, Michael S. Barr, Assistant Professor of Law at The University of Michigan, and an expert on the topic of the unbanked, said, "Access to basic financial services is critical to success in the modern American economy." In the article, he notes that debit-card based accounts "may be particularly suited to low income, unbanked persons" and that pursuing these kinds of strategies can help to "transform financial services for low-income persons."

 "If families are to improve their financial position and be ready for the important milestones in their lives, they must have access to quality financial services," said Maura Markus, President of Citibanking North America, Retail Distribution Group. "By addressing the basic transaction needs of consumers, the Access Account will relieve them of the risk of carrying a lot of cash and help them establish a financial gateway to build credit and assets. We named this new Citibank account 'Access' because it is the easiest and most cost-effective way for unbanked consumers to access the quality services provided by the world's leading financial institution.

 "We believe that no other bank has addressed the needs of unbanked consumers with a product that offers the range of financial services, customer support and remittance services offered by the Access Account. Citibank is proud to make this new account available to those who will benefit from it, and we look forward to serving their individual financial needs for many years," Ms. Markus concluded.

 The Access Account features easy and low-cost remittance and funds transfer options. For example, Banamex, the largest bank in Mexico, and Citibank are both member companies of Citigroup, so the Access Account is able to offer a number of ways to send money to relatives and friends in Mexico. Real-time fund transfers can be sent to Banamex for as little as $5.00 per transfer. Transfers to Citibank accounts in countries in Europe and Asia are also attractively priced.

 Other features of the Citibank Access Account include:

 -- "Checkless" checking. The Access account does not feature checks, but allows customers to make free, unlimited bill payments through Citibank Online, in English or Spanish and through the bank's automated phone system. Account holders may also receive a MasterCard debit card for cash withdrawal and point-of-sale transactions. The account offers unlimited Citibank ATM transactions.

 -- No minimum balance or opening deposit requirement. The Access Account does not require a minimum balance either to open or maintain the account. Customers will have access to Citibank services regardless of their account balance. In addition, Citibank's $3.00 monthly maintenance fee will be waived for Access customers who arrange direct deposit of recurring deposits, such as payroll, Social Security or entitlement funds.

 -- Easy-to-understand statements. Customers can ask to receive their statements in English or Spanish.

 -- Access to a wide range of Citibank's banking products.  Customers will be eligible for a wide range of Citibank services including a line of credit linked to their account, a secured credit card and a complimentary Citipro financial needs analysis, among others.

 -- Dedicated customer service. The Access Account will be supported by dedicated telephone customer service in English, Spanish and Chinese. Customer service representatives will be available to train and familiarize Access Account customers with the services available to them.

 Consumers interested in learning more about the Access Account should call 1-866-335-1191 (English), or 1-800-967-4984 (Spanish), visit or stop by their nearest Citibank location.

 Citigroup (NYSE: C), the preeminent global financial services company with some 200 million customer accounts in more than 100 countries, provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, insurance, securities brokerage, and asset management. Major brand names under Citigroup's trademark red umbrella include Citibank, CitiFinancial, Primerica, Smith Barney, Banamex, and Travelers Life and Annuity. Additional information may be found at: 


CONTACT: For Citibank, New York

Mark Rodgers, 212-559-1719