Varo Money Survey: Of Five Major U.S. Cities, Philadelphia and Chicago Offer Best Quality of Life for the Cost

10 things I love/hate about you

Taken as a whole, Americans feel that New York is “the best” at a lot of things—cultural activities, public transportation, live music, restaurants, bars, hetero dating, public parks, and outdoor activities. Taken separately, however, residents of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia generally disagreed, feeling that their own city was best in most categories.

There were a few exceptions. Based on our survey, Americans generally prefer:

  • Los Angeles for its weather, avocado toast, and acai bowls
  • San Francisco for its LGTBQ dating scene, farmers markets, and dog parks
  • Chicago for its microbrews
  • Philadelphia was voted best quality of life for the cost, even though it didn’t come out on top in any of the other categories included in the survey

What don’t we love? Los Angeles ranked last for public transportation; Chicago and Philly tied for worst weather; and San Francisco’s dating scene for straight men was at the bottom of the list, as was Philadelphia’s dating scene for straight women and the LGTBQ community. Even though the Big Apple was ranked highly for attractions, it came in last (along with San Francisco) in the category of “quality of life for the cost.”

Life in (and out) of the big city

More people (66%) own their own homes (house or apartment) in Philadelphia than any of the other cities in the survey. This is followed by Chicago (62%), Los Angeles (53%), New York (52%), and, finally, San Francisco (47%). The national average for home ownership is 54%.

Home ownership seems to be a litmus test for how affordable these cities feel to residents more generally, as Philadelphians (73%) and Chicagoans (69%) were also most likely to say that they can generally afford the lifestyle they want, while San Franciscans were the least likely (43%). Of Americans living elsewhere in the country, 69% feel they can generally afford the lifestyle they want.

  • 35% of Americans rent
  • About 1 in 5 San Franciscans and Angelenos have roommates
  • Only 1 in 10 Chicagoans and New Yorkers have roommates
  • Angelenos, Philadelphians, and San Franciscans are about twice as likely to live at home with their parents (7%) as Chicagoans and New Yorkers (4%)

More than 80% of the respondents living in the five cities surveyed feel their neighborhoods are generally gentrifying. Meanwhile, 26% of the participants living elsewhere report that their neighborhood is on the decline.

Wining and dining

Nationally, 24% of Americans say they only spring for a fancy dinner—defined as a dinner that costs more than $50—once a year, and 14% say they never do. However, 26% of New Yorkers and 22% of Angelenos are having a fancy dinner weekly, and about half of Chicagoans (49%) and Philadelphians (47%) are splurging monthly.

What does an ideal night out cost? The top answer choices for each city were:

  • $50-$75 in New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco
  • $75-$100 in Los Angeles
  • $100-$150 in Chicago
  • $25-$50 everywhere else

Fewer than 1 in 3 Americans (30%) has an entertainment budget.

The majority of Americans (62%) feel more annoyed when places only accept cash than when they only accept credit. This is particularly true for San Franciscans (71%) and Chicagoans (70%). Angelenos feel most annoyed by places that only take credit (41%).

Breaking up is hard to do

Americans’ biggest gripe about their current bank is the low savings rate (24%) and the various fees they are charged, including overdraft (17%), monthly maintenance (17%), and ATM (13%) fees. In fact, the majority of Americans (63%) find overdraft fees more annoying than bouncing payments.

A bad customer service experience is the #1 thing most likely to convince an American to leave their current bank (41%), but data breach (37%) is a close second. Having said that, leaving their current bank feels like a daunting undertaking to most Americans, who feel that it is more difficult than switching:

  • Doctors — 21%
  • Jobs — 21%
  • Current diet to lose ten pounds — 20%
  • From iPhone to Android — 17%
  • Hairdressers — 15%
  • Gyms — 13%
  • Coasts — 9%

In addition, 8% of Americans feel that switching banks is even more difficult than swapping out their current significant other or spouse. Another 8% don’t have a bank account.

About Varo Money

Varo Money, Inc. (“Varo”), is changing the future of banking with their mobile app: a frictionless bank account offered through The Bancorp Bank that also helps customers do more with their money. Varo is building a mobile banking experience that helps customers cover their expenses, pay their bills and build their wealth over time — so they can stop worrying about money and go live their lives. Unlike traditional banks or other fintech apps, Varo offers a complete solution with integrated deposit, budgeting, savings, and lending products that aim to help customers bank with ease and achieve better financial outcomes. There’s no reason for a bank branch on every corner anymore: all that customers need is an iPhone to bank seamlessly. Based in San Francisco and privately held, Varo has raised $78M to date, led by Warburg Pincus. Varo Personal Loan and Varo Backup Line are offered by Varo Money, Inc., under state licenses, subject to application approval. For more information, please visit https://www.varomoney.com and follow Varo on Facebook @varomoney or Twitter @varomoney.

Varo Bank Accounts are provided by The Bancorp Bank, and deposits are FDIC-insured up to $250,000 through The Bancorp Bank; Member FDIC.

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Press Contact

Alessandra Nagy

alessandra@bospar.com