Citi NRI Vs ICICI NRI Bank Account

Are you an NRI and confused which bank is better to open an NRE/NRO Bank Account in India? Keep reading if you answered yes. A few months ago, I had the same confusion and doubt in my mind. I researched the opportunities these banks provided me.

I was in India last December and thought it would be really nice to open an account while I am here. I had downloaded and filled HDFC Bank’s account opening form, but forgot to take it with me to India (which wasn’t a big deal.) I was confused if I should go with HDFC bank or ICICI bank. My family and friends in India suggested that I should go with ICICI instead of HDFC. I went to ICICI’s Faridabad branch with a relative who had an account there. There is no need for a reference to open an NRE/NRO account with ICICI, but my relative knew the bank employees. The employee photocopied my documents (Passport, etc.) I was impressed that they do such things in India, but I don’t know if it was due to the presence of my relative or they treat every customer like that. I was also surprised to see a lot of banners saying “Free Gift” to NRIs, who open an account with ICICI. It was surprising because, it wasn’t a NRI specific branch, it was just another random ICICI branch (I haven’t seen them all though.)

The bank employee gave me a packet, which had a check (cheque, whatever you prefer) book, ATM card, Internet banking password and PIN. We asked for the “Free Gift” and the employee said they were “Out of Stock” and they would deliver it later to my relative as I was about to leave for US the next day. They did give the gift to my relative. After a couple of days when I came back to USA, I logged onto ICICI’s website and entered my login details, to find out that my User Id is disabled. Through my relative I found out that it will take some time, as the bank sends all the documents to Mumbai head office and it takes some time. I waited patiently for few days and then contacted the ICICI again through [email protected] The NRI cell told me that they are not aware of the account status and I should contact the ICICI branch. The bank employee told me that my signature did not match, and I had made a small error (had an extra check mark) on the form. I had filled the form in front of the employee and she checked it for any possible error.

The saga continued and after several email exchanges – asking for updates the Faridabad branch sent me the scanned form and asked me to correct the so-called error and sign the form and send a letter stating, that these are my latest signatures etc. I sent the required stuff. After about 2.5 months (mid march) I got access to my online account. I was happy to see my account online, but that happiness didn’t last long.

I was unable to transfer funds online. After, a few email exchanges and a several telephone calls to 1-866-ICICI-4U, I (and ICICI) had no clue as to what’s going on with my account. I sent an email to escalate the issue and got a reply after a few days, but the Head – Customer Service office was able to find out the real issue and updated me as promised. The problem was that, when I sent the scanned docs my online account was enabled but the transfers were frozen until I send them the originals of those docs. But, it wasn’t documented anywhere in the entire system, but perhaps in some register (as in note book) in the branch (I assume.)

I had contacted Citi Bank NRI services late last year. I had to send them the filled account opening form. While I was frustrated with ICICI bank, I received an email from Citi Bank that they have an open house in Berkeley (a city near by.) I went there and submitted the filled form to the banking officer. The email said that they would have a photo camera, so if I didn’t have the passport size pics, they can click them there. The banking officer told me that he could not get hold of the camera, but suggested me that there was a photography store near by. He didn’t know much about what other Indian banks are supported for online fund transfer and asked me to check it on the website (which I couldn’t find out, until I had an a/c). I was told that it will take about 15 days for my a/c to open.

With my ICICI experience and comments from friends that Citi Bank (India) isn’t that great, I hardly had any hopes. However, on the 14th day I got an (automated) email that my Citi NRE account has been opened and I will receive my checkbook and other stuff within next 2 weeks. Next day I got another (automated) email that INR XXXX has been deposited to my bank account. 2 days later, I received a UPS package from Chennai containing my Internet Password and PIN. Finally, a day later, I received another courier from Chennai containing my checkbook, ATM card etc. I setup my online account easily.

I used my Citi NRE account to transfer money to one of my friend’s Citi Bank account in India. I was shocked to find out that he received the money almost after 5 minutes. I think ICICI takes about 2 days for ICICI-ICICI bank transfer. I then used Citi Bank’s “Free Draft” service to send a few drafts. They were delivered free of cost to door step. The turn around time was also quick (2 working days max.)

Citi bank has an intelligent keyboard system to enter password. It helps to avoid potential key-loggers. I don’t understand why ICICI bank takes 2 days to transfer money from one ICICI bank account to other? Four or more consecutive failed attempts to login into ICICI Internet account, disables you user ID. The ID could only be enabled only after you send an email to [email protected] In this age of the Internet, ICICI takes (at least) 2 working days to enable your Id. Haven’t they heard of something called “What is your mother’s maiden name?” They ask you to send your complete address and other A/C related info to the email and then I guess some human being matches it and enables your ID. Also, if you forget you password you call/write to ICICI and they courier your new password from India. I think all this can be made much simpler by an automated “forgot password” section.

On the whole, my experience with Citi bank has been much better than with ICICI bank. I wouldn’t blame the people working for ICICI for this, but the upper management who creates these non-customer-friendly systems. I think they have complicated things for themselves. I think 25% of the money they use for advertising should be devoted in their customer service department.

I would like to add that the above mentioned was my experience with ICICI and Citi banks in India. I knew few people who had good experience with ICICI bank’s NRI cell. One can not generalize the whole bank’s Customer Service using one incident.

From whatever I have understood after researching both the banks, I think if the primary goal for an NRE/NRO account is to transfer funds to India to family and for other purposes, then Citi Bank is a better choice. However, if you want to invest in Mutual Funds ( you don’t have too much choice as Citi Bank does not provide such a service till date. ICICI seems to have a monopoly in this sector and it doesn’t leave you with much choice.

BTW, I mailed my docs to ICICI’s NRI center today, let’s hope I get to use my own money by the end of April. Also, I should get a Rang De Basanti DVD from Citi Bank soon :).

Please do add your opinions/findings on this matter in the comments below.

You should follow me on Twitter at @gsharma.
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  • Mohan

    Citi has no customer service in no, only one person is handling the whole of NJ. Close your accounts.

  • Varun

    I had a bad experience with ICICI. They are so disorganized and wasted a lot of my time. First they told me that I can just send scanned copies of my documents. Later then came back to me asking for my paper copies to be mailed. There were a ton of email exchanges. And they used to call me in the middle of the night as if they are not aware of the time difference. If you email them any questions, they would come back with vague answers. It is a shame that they have such bad service. I wouldn’t recommend going for ICICI. I had a couple of friends that used CITI and they were happy with it. So, I am going to try CITI as well.

  • PL

    Thanks, to summarize, we Indians can build US and European companies but are not great when it comes to building an Indian company. Yes CITI has poor service compared to US banks. Surprisingly, I thought it was part of CITI group in US and would provide a…….service. Good to know that no one is happy with ICICI that saves me time to switch and realize the mistake.

  • karpakarajanvchettiar

    what do you mean

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  • anmol

    Very helpful.

  • visharma

    I am going thru a nightmare of my own with ICICI. I wish I had read this before I opened my account. I opened my account at the Guru Nanak Marg, Raja Park branch in Jaipur. The person told me that I’ll receive my check book in 5 business days at the US address. It took 3 weeks to get the checkbook. I tried to follow the instructions in the booklet to login to my account (which don’t match the site). The site would not let me login saying that I don’t have an email address registered with them. I called the support team and they said I have to wait for my PIN before logging in. In another 10 days or so, I got my PIN and tried to login. I got exactly the same error, not surprisingly because the site never asked me for my PIN! I called their support number and the person told me due to a technical difficulty they are unable to hear me. They are working on the issue and I should call them tomorrow. I’ve wasted 4 hrs of my life and still can’t login to my account.

    So, one of the biggest banks in India can’t do the following, shame on them-
    -Give accurate information about when I’ll be able to access my account.
    -Create instruction booklets that match their websites.
    -Create a user friendly website.
    -Have a support center that has a decent uptime?

    If you are thinking of opening an NRI account with ICICI, STOP. Go somewhere else, it’s not worth the trouble.

  • Parvez Merchant

    I’ve been trying to contact someone at Citi NRI for almost 3 weeks used an email to contact rep in northern california email from Citibank NRI website and the email address is wrong on Citibank website what a shame… I contacted ICICI Bank and immediately they called me in a few hours with the email package what I need to open an account.

  • Priya

    ICICI is the worst to open NRE / NRO Account

  • Pavan

    I recently opened ICICI account. These people does’t even know the standards on opening the account. I mean they won’t even explain the minimum criteria’s of account. How shame on the corporate culture. SBH doesn’t even charge a pie on online transaction and these people are so greedy on even rupees 5. I have many bad experiences with ICICI for all my account including insurances, bank accounts and transactions.

  • Lajji

    Never open a account with Citi NRI. They have a worst and dumbest people in the customer service. They don’t have any standard. If you submit a request without looking into the request they will close the request with some dumbest comment.

  • Sheetal

    Please never ever open a Citi Nri . Their service sucks

  • Ryan Joseph

    I am a NRI, Currently working as a chartered accountant in Singapore for 7 years and For this 7 years I have been using South Indian Bank NRI account still this moment not face a single issue while making NRI transaction with South Indian Bank NRI accout. So from my experience South indian bank is one of the best banks in India to provide best NRI banking service

  • Rahul Asati

    tldr; CITI Bank won’t care even if that means delaying surgery for life threatening emergency.

    I have been using citibank NRI service for last 4 years, this week was the first time in 4 years where I needed to access the money in my fixed Deposit account for a medical emergency back home.

    – There is no option to do it online
    – First I was told that I need to link the account to be able to cancel the fixed deposits which will take 2 working days.
    – 2 days after I call to cancel the fixed deposits, I was told it would take 48-72 working hours.
    – After 3 working days and I called and it is still not done
    – Called on 4th, 5th day and still not done.

    Today is 6th working day. Even after telling them the whole situation there is no response. Now I am planning to arrange funds from other places and there is a chance we have to postpond the surgery.

    Fuck you Citibank, as soon as everything normal I am closing the account .

  • J D

    I completely agree. You always have to deal with the idiots who don’t even have answer to the basic questions. Customer service is the worst service I have ever dealt with. It’s a greedy, careless, useless, ethicless financial company fooling around people.

  • Tarun Bhargava

    Citibank is worst in keeping the KYC requirements clean. Their personnel kept on insisting for Adhaar card, voter card, proof of residence in India whilst I am a US Citizen. Ultimately one personnel agreed with US passport, Driving license, US bank account for address and initiate a dollar 1 transfer to activate my account. After one month I am in same situation and my account is pending activation. Today when i called Citi, I was told to initiate Wire transfer to make my account active. Wire Transfer cost 30 dollars. Then they said make a ACH transfer. He even told there is a form and that you can fill and send all documents again to activate the account. What a mess. I cant see the form to download.

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  • SK

    Hi, I am going thru hell to open NRO/NRE account with ICICI. It has been several weeks since I have submitted all of the documents scanned and emailed them after my several conversations and emails with them. No update on what the heck is going on with my account opening. I need to travel to India in few weeks and need this account set up.
    The one thing I found positive is that most of the time when I try to contact them via their NRI account opening form someone calls me back within a few minutes. But that person starts all over again.
    I was looking into opening Citi NRI in case this ICICI account doesn’t get opened on time. It is discouraging to see same bad service posted here from CICI NRI customers.


    Without describing my terrible experince with ICICI NRI bank, I think they should not be in business of dealing in NRI matters.
    I always had very satisfactory experience with CITI bank.

  • Naren Patel

    I was told ICICI bank is better for internet services which I was delighted to go to the site to opening NRI account based in USA. The site says that once you give your particulars mainly contact information, somebody will within 15 minutes. I was also delighted to read that they also provide courier service for documents to pick up from home. I waited the whole Friday the day I filled up the contact etc, waiting for whole Saturday and now Monday. Nobody called. They shouldn’t be in business and the site is big bullshit. State Bank of India services is also poor. it appears to me these stupid Indians will never learn. Poor Modiji is wasting his breath for nothing. Only language these stupid Indians will understand only when the whites rule over them. Now I don’t know what to do and which Bank should I trust.

  • Sangeeta Sahni

    Good for you. Unfortunately my experience with Citibank NRI has been very different. I read good reviews and decided to go with Citibank over others. Started the process in September 2019, filled online application in October 2019. Tons of paperwork, emails, phone calls, more paperwork but still no active account as of August 15, 2020

    The last delay is that my passport expired end of July and Citibank needs an active passport. Sadly during Covid passport renewal has slowed down and may take months for my application to process. And funny part is I was told about passport expiry date just a couple of dates before the expiry date

    I love to travel and would have had a renewed passport if not for Covid situation or if I was informed earlier in the process that passport renewal is required

    My new joke is you can produce a baby in nine months but can’t open a Citibank NRI account

    Wish I had explored other banks

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