Cathay Bank Review: Multilingual Service and a Robust Product Line

GOBankingRates Score

4.5
Our take: Cathay Bank offers a full suite of personal checking and savings products, along with mortgage loans, credit cards and investment products. First opened to serve the Chinese American community in the Los Angeles area, the bank has expanded to several other areas in the U.S. that also have large Asian American populations. The website is available in English, Chinese and Spanish.
  • Rates
    5.0
  • Breadth of Products
    5.0
  • Accessibility
    4.5
  • Mobile App
    3.5
How did we calculate this?

Pros

  • Multilingual website and customer service
  • Competitive interest rates
  • Full range of products for all banking needs

Cons

  • Branch locations in the U.S. are in just nine states

About Cathay Bank

Cathay Bank was founded in 1962 to serve the growing Chinese American community in Los Angeles. It now has more than 60 branches in nine states: California, New York, Washington, Illinois, Texas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada and New Jersey. The bank also has a branch in Hong Kong and representative offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Taipei. The website and customer service are offered in English, Chinese and Spanish.

Cathay Bank Products

Cathay Bank offers checking, savings, money market and CD accounts, as well as mortgage loans and credit cards. There are checking and savings options for people at all stages and income levels, from student and basic checking accounts to long-term CDs and retirement accounts.

Product Key Details
Checking Accounts
  • Some have no or waivable monthly maintenance fees
  • Minimum opening deposit as low as $10
Savings Accounts
  • Minimum opening deposit as low as $100
  • Tiered interest rates from 0.05% to 0.10% APY
Money Market Accounts
  • Tiered interest rates from 0.05% to 0.40% APY
  • Up to six transactions per month by check or ATM
CDs
  • Terms from 7 days to 5 years
  • Interest rates from 0.10% to 0.40% APY
Credit Cards
  • Sign-up bonuses up to 10,000 points
  • No annual fee or overlimit fee
Mortgage Loans
  • Community homebuyers program for first-time buyers or those with limited down payment
  • Programs for nonresidents and investment properties
Wealth Management
  • Financial planning
  • Retirement accounts

Cathay Bank Checking Accounts

Cathay Bank offers five checking accounts: Student Advantage Checking, Basic Checking, Simple Checking, Personal Checking and Cathay ValuePlus Checking. Basic and Simple Checking are similar products that are offered in different states.

Features

  • Basic Checking
    This account can be opened with a minimum of $10, has no monthly maintenance fee, and pays no interest. It is available in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland and Illinois.
  • Simple Checking
    This account requires a $25 opening deposit, has a $6 monthly maintenance fee, and pays no interest. It is available in California, Washington, Nevada and Texas.
  • Personal Checking
    This account has a $100 minimum opening deposit, and the $10 monthly maintenance fee can be waived with a $1,000 minimum daily balance. This account pays no interest.
  • ValuePlus Checking
    The $15 monthly maintenance fee for this account can be waived with a $2,000 minimum daily balance or a combined $10,000 balance in other deposit accounts. It pays 0.05% to 0.10% APY, depending on the balance. This account has a minimum opening deposit of $2,000.
  • Student Advantage Checking
    Open this account with as little as $10. It has no monthly maintenance fee and pays no interest. It’s for students 18 or older who are enrolled in postsecondary education.

Pros

  • Some accounts have no maintenance fee or one that can be waived
  • ValuePlus Checking pays a variable rate of interest based on balance
  • Three account options can be opened with a low initial deposit of $10-$25

Cons

  • Simple Checking has a maintenance fee that cannot be waived

Cathay Bank Savings Accounts

Cathay Bank offers several savings account options. They all pay interest based on your account balance, with rates ranging from 0.05% to 0.10% APY.

Passbook Savings uses the traditional passbook that gets updated when you go into a branch to make a deposit or withdrawal, while Statement Savings issues quarterly statements. Each can be opened with at least $100 and has a $3 per month maintenance fee that is waived if your average daily balance is at least $500.

Student Savings has a minimum opening balance of just $10 and no monthly maintenance fee.

Features

  • Interest rates range from 0.05% APY on balances less than $50,000 to 0.10% APY on balances of $50,000 or more
  • Monthly maintenance fees for Passbook Savings and Statement Savings can be waived with a $500 daily balance

Pros

  • Higher balances earn higher interest
  • No monthly maintenance fee for Student Savings

Cons

  • $3 monthly maintenance fee for Passbook Savings and Statement Savings if balance falls below $500

Cathay Bank Money Market Account

Cathay Bank offers two money market accounts with tiered interest rates. Each account limits you to six transactions per month. Due to COVID-19, however, Cathay Bank has suspended fees for excess withdrawals from money market accounts.

Features

  • Smart Money Market, with a $5,000 minimum opening balance, pays between 0.05% and 0.40% APY
  • Optima Money Market has a $100,000 minimum opening balance and pays between 0.05% and 0.40% APY
  • Up to six transactions per month

Pros

  • Monthly maintenance fee of $10 for Smart Money Market and $50 for Optima Money Market can be waived with a minimum balance equal to the minimum opening balance
  • Higher balances earn higher APYs

Cons

  • Limited difference in the interest rate tiers between the two accounts
  • High opening deposit required for Optima Money Market

Cathay Bank CD Accounts

Cathay Bank offers certificates of deposit for terms ranging from seven days to five years. Rates depend on the term of the CD as well as the deposit amount. Higher balances and longer terms earn higher interest rates.

Features

  • Terms from seven days to five years
  • Interest rates from 0.10% to 0.40% APY
  • Minimum opening deposit of $2,500

Pros

  • Fixed interest rate for the term of the CD
  • Higher interest rates for balances of $50,000 or more

Cons

  • Early withdrawal penalty may apply

Banking Experience

Cathay Bank branches are located in nine states across the U.S., with one more in Hong Kong. The bank offers online and mobile banking for times when there is no branch nearby.

Accessibility

Cathay Bank has more than 60 branch locations in the United States, and customers have access to Pulse Select/Money Pass ATMs with no service charge.

Customer Service

Cathay Bank’s customer service agents can be reached from 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. PST, Monday through Friday, and automated account information can be obtained anytime by calling 800-922-8429.

You can also send a general inquiry via the contact form on the bank’s website.

How To Open a Cathay Bank Account

The Cathay Bank website does not support account opening for most accounts, so you must visit a branch for those account options. Customers can also apply for credit cards or mortgages online.

Mobile and Digital Experience

The Cathay Bank mobile app is available for iOS on the App Store, where it has a rating of 2.1 out of 5 stars. For Android users, it’s available on Google Play, where it has a 3.0 rating. With the mobile app, you can deposit checks, pay bills, transfer funds and check your account balances on your mobile device. For quick access to your account balances and recent transactions, the Cathay Bank mobile app supports Touch ID and passcode authentication.

Key Information

Customer service number: 800-922-8429

Routing number: 122203950

Cathay Bank Fees

Cathay Bank charges monthly maintenance fees on most accounts, but they typically can be waived by meeting minimum balance requirements. Here are some of the fees you can expect to pay if you don’t maintain the required minimum balance.

Fee Amount
Checking monthly maintenance fee $0-$15
Savings monthly maintenance fee $0-$3
Money market monthly maintenance fee $10-$50

Cathay Bank vs. Competitors

If you’re shopping for a new bank, it’s important to find the one that’s best for you. Here’s a look at how Cathay Bank stacks up against the competition.

Bank Best For
Cathay Bank Multilingual service and broad product line
Bank of America Branches and ATMs nationwide
East West Bank Checking and savings options for seniors
Wells Fargo Overdraft protection

Cathay Bank vs. Bank of America

Cathay Bank offers services that are tailored to the needs of its customer base, including those who want to bank in Hong Kong or access information on banking options in Chinese. Bank of America has a larger footprint in the U.S., with about 4,300 retail banking locations and 17,000 ATMs nationwide.

Cathay Bank vs. East West Bank

East West Bank offers senior checking and savings accounts with no monthly maintenance fees for customers age 62 and up — options you won’t find at Cathay Bank. Cathay offers more mortgage options, especially for investment properties.

Cathay Bank vs. Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo offers overdraft protection by linking your checking and savings accounts, using your savings balance to cover any overdrafts in checking. Cathay Bank offers better interest rates, even on low-balance savings accounts.

Final Take

Cathay Bank is a great choice for those who would like bilingual banking services and are located in one of the bank’s service areas. Competitive interest rates and a variety of products mean that you can use Cathay Bank for all of your financial needs. Although the number of branches is limited compared to some big banks, there is a nationwide network of surcharge-free ATMs available, as well as online and mobile banking.

Editor’s Favorite

Cathay Bank supports customers in English, Chinese and Spanish and provides competitive interest rates on savings products, including money market and CD accounts.

Cathay Bank FAQ

Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about Cathay Bank.
  • Is Cathay Bank FDIC-insured?
    • Yes, deposits at Cathay Bank are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. up to $250,000 per depositor, per account category.
  • Who owns Cathay Bank?
    • Cathay Bank is a division of Cathay General Bancorp (Nasdaq: CATY), a publicly traded company.
  • Does Cathay Bank offer mobile check deposit?
    • Yes. Mobile check deposit is available for all Cathay Bank checking and savings accounts except Passbook Savings and CDs. Customers can deposit up to 10 checks per day, totaling up to $10,000.
  • Does Cathay Bank offer free money for signing up for an account?
    • Cathay Bank does not currently offer a cash bonus for signing up for an account. The bank, however, is offering a gold-plated figurine to celebrate the Year of the Ox (2021) to those who open an account with $20,000 or more, or deposit that amount in new funds in an existing account.

Rates are subject to change. Information on accounts is accurate as of Feb. 8, 2021.

This content is not provided by Cathay Bank. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by Cathay Bank.

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About the Author

Karen Doyle is a personal finance writer with over 20 years’ experience writing about investments, money management and financial planning. Her work has appeared on numerous news and finance websites including GOBankingRates, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, USA Today, CNBC, Equifax.com, and more.

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