PROS / You can use your second home as collateral.
CONS / The quality of customer service varied widely and was overall not as good as other banks we reviewed.
VERDICT / If you are certain about what you want in a home equity loan or line of credit, Citizens Bank can offer a good range of options with competitive rates. However, we found its customer service, both in chat and on the phone, to be limited and problematic unless you are ready to apply.
Citizens Bank offers home equity loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOC) with competitive prices. Its limits for loan-to-value ratios, credit scores and interest rates are on par with other lenders we examined. Its customer service was more problematic than those of other banks, but it had one of the best learning centers online for home equity and other banking issues. For these reasons, Citizens Bank receives our Top Ten Reviews Bronze Reward.
Rates & Fees
Our rates & fee score takes into account a variety of factors, including the interest rates for both fixed and variable home equity loans as well as any closing, application and maintenance fees. Citizens Bank scored well in this category, receiving a 90 percent, which is well above the average score of 77 percent. Citizens Bank’s score was the second highest in our review, which means its loans fare well when compared with the others in our review.
Citizens Bank’s eligibility requirements are roughly average when compared to the other lenders in our review. It received an 80 percent, which is the average score. The eligibility score encompasses the amount of equity you need to have in your house, the maximum loan-to-value ratio in your home, the debt to income ratio you can have as well as the minimum credit score needed to apply. Citizens Bank also allows you to use a second home as collateral.
Our reviewers evaluated the loan specifications of each lender and combined them into a score. This score includes the lenders Citizens Bank only received a 60 percent in this score, in part due to having a lower maximum repayment period than other lenders we reviewed.
There is no online application, so you'll need to call or visit a branch. You can fill out an information form online, and a home loan originator calls you within a day to help you apply. The entire process from application to closing can take 30 to 60 days, and you can get the money immediately after the right of rescission period (three days as required by law). If you want checks to draw from your HELOC, however, it can take an additional 10 days to get them. Citizens Bank does not have a HELOC-tied credit card option like most banks.
Citizens Bank had the worst customer service of the home equity lenders we tested for several reasons. First, the contact number on the website is wrong, making it difficult to reach a loan officer. We were able to get the correct number via live chat, but the chat agent could not answer questions about the loan process or details. We were specifically told their function was to help people navigate the website and answer very general questions. One loan officer we spoke to was patient and answered all of our questions fully, but another representative was curt, telling us he couldn't afford time to talk to us if we weren't going to apply.
The website itself, however, is full of useful information, from FAQs and calculators that help you determine LTV and payments to articles and videos about home equity loans and other financial issues. Citizens Bank has nearly 1,000 branches in 22 states. Thus, it should not be ruled out as a choice. Just keep in mind that you might get better service if you are ready to apply.
Citizens Bank offers comparable home equity loans and lines of credit at comparative rates. Its website offers a lot of useful information on home equity financing, but the customer service was not as good as that of other banks. If you are ready to apply and are in one of the 22 states it services, it's a lender worth considering, especially if you want to use your second home as collateral.