Aspiration Bank Review

aspiration

If you’re someone who is looking to break away from bigger banks and you’re investigating mobile banking options, you may have heard of Aspiration. And if you’re wondering whether or not it’s the right financial service for you, we’ve got you covered; we’ll be discussing everything you need to know in this Aspiration bank review.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, here’s the overview:

Aspiration is a digital banking option with global good as its central value. They advocate for climate change, greener choices, and a lower carbon footprint. If you want an ethical personal finance company that rewards you for sustainable purchases, Aspiration could be what you’re looking for.

About Aspiration

To clear up any confusion, Aspiration isn’t a federally insured bank; they clearly state this on their website. Instead, Aspiration is a mobile-only brokerage firm based in the US. They offer checking, investing, and even retirement options while rewarding you for helping save the planet and being socially conscious.

Andrei Cherny and Joseph Sanberg founded the company in 2013, and its headquarters are in Marina del Rey, California. As of May 2020, Aspiration has raised over $250 million in funding, and it has over 3 million members as of January 2021.

Although Aspiration isn’t technically a bank, all deposits made with them are FDIC-insured for up to $2.46 million per depositor.

Aspiration is B Corporation certified and is a member of 1% for the Planet and the Conscience Coalition. For a privately owned challenger bank, those are pretty significant accomplishments. They’re also accomplishments that mean you can rest assured knowing where you put your money is making a positive impact.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Plant trees just by shopping
  • Get up to 1% APY on your savings with Aspiration Plus
  • Get paid two days early
  • Offset your carbon footprint when you buy fuel
  • No minimum balance
  • 55,000+ fee-free ATMs
  • No big bank fees
  • No money given to fossil fuel projects

Cons

  • Aspiration Plus has a monthly fee
  • Must spend $1,000 minimum monthly on Aspiration Plus debit card to earn 1% APY
  • Some transfer limits in your first 30 days as an account holder
  • $1,000 incoming transfer limit
  • Cannot accept foreign checks

Fees

  • “Pay What Is Fair” model for basic Aspiration debit card
  • $5.99 per month (billed annually) for Aspiration Plus debit card
  • $4 per transaction at international ATMs
  • 1% charge on all international transactions (including online transactions)
  • 0.5% of assets paid to third party funds for Redwood Fund investment plan
  • Annual $15 custodial fee for IRA accounts
  • $10 minimum opening deposit for Spend and Save, Redwood Fund, and Redwood IRA
  • No transaction or transfer fees
  • No overdraft fees

Aspiration Accounts

Who Can Apply for an Aspiration Account?

Anyone with a permanent US address and a US Social Security Number (SSN) who is 18 or over can apply for an Aspiration account or invest with Aspiration. You will need a mobile device or computer to access your account.

How Do You Open an Aspiration Account?

You can open an account either online via your computer or mobile device, or you can download the Aspiration app on your mobile device to begin the application process.

You’ll need your US SSN, valid ID, and residential address to get started, but this is typical for any banking account.

When Aspiration reviews your application, they will run what is known as a “soft credit check” on your credit, but this kind of check won’t affect your credit score. Aspiration only uses it to verify your identity, so you don’t have to worry about your credit score dropping.

You can get links to download the iOS and Android apps here.

Aspiration Spend and Save Account (“Pay What Is Fair” model)

  • Free Mastercard debit card
  • Deposits don’t fund fossil fuel exploration or production
  • 55,000+ free in-network ATMs
  • 3-5% cash back on purchases made with Conscience Coalition companies
  • Personal impact score is given based on how you shop
  • Option to plant a tree when you round up to the nearest dollar
  • Get paid up to 2 days early
  • No overdrafts or hidden fees

Aspiration Spend and Save Account Plus ($5.99 per month billed annually)

  • Premium Mastercard world debit card
  • Deposits don’t fund fossil fuel exploration or production
  • 55,000+ free in-network ATMs
  • 10% cashback on purchases made with Conscience Coalition companies
  • Personal impact score is given based on how you shop
  • Option to plant a tree when you round up to the nearest dollar
  • Up to 1% APY on savings
  • Reimbursement for a single out-of-network ATM per month
  • Carbon offsets for all gas purchases made with Planet Protection
  • Get paid up to 2 days early
  • No overdrafts or hidden fees

Aspiration Zero

  • Mastercard credit card
  • Option to plant a tree when you make a purchase
  • Up to 1% cashback on all purchases each month you reach carbon zero

Aspiration offers two different checking account plans for members; both are “Spend and Save” accounts.

The first account is the normal Spend and Save account, which allows cardholders a unique option. The account operates under what Aspiration calls a “Pay What Is Fair” model. This lets users only pay per month what they believe is a fair amount for a fee.

Of course, the question you may be asking is, “Can that fee be zero?” The answer, according to Aspiration, is yes.

The company claims to be built on trust and that they trust users to decide what they feel they would like to pay for the services provided. The amount customers pay can be altered as often as they’d like.

Investing fees and “at cost” fees for services such as wire transfers will still apply, but for everything else, that’s essentially up to you.

With the second account, the Spend and Save Plus, there is a $5.99 per month fee (or about $72 a year, if you’re doing the math). The same benefits as the original Spend and Save account apply, but there are a few added perks.

Users get 10% cashback on Conscience Coalition purchases, which is more than double the original card. There is also an option for cardholders to earn up to 1% APY on their savings, and Aspiration will also invest in carbon offsets for gas purchases made with the card.

Aspiration is also gearing up to offer a credit card, Aspiration Zero. It isn’t available yet, but the company claims it will offer up to 1% cashback on all of your purchases each month you reach “carbon zero” as you attempt to eradicate your carbon footprint. Additionally, they plant a tree each time you make a purchase.

How to Add Funds to an Aspiration Account

Funds can be added to an account via cash, check, or direct deposit, just like any other bank or banking service.

  • Linking an External Account

If you choose to add funds to your Aspiration account from another account, you can link that account through the app.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to open an account with Aspiration yet, you can choose to link your current bank or credit card to a service called Plant Your Change.

Plant Your Change is a service offered through Aspiration that helps users fight climate change even if they don’t have an Aspiration account. You’ll need an existing credit or debit card to sign up. After you’ve linked your existing card, you can round up to the nearest dollar for every purchase you make and use that money to help plant a tree.

  • Cash Deposits

Unfortunately, Aspiration doesn’t offer ATM deposits. You can only deposit cash in one of two ways: putting it into an external account and transferring it to your Aspiration account or obtaining a money order using the cash and depositing that into your account via the mobile app.

  • Check Deposits

You can deposit checks via the Aspiration app on your mobile device. You should receive the deposit within 1 to 2 business days.

Just be sure that the check is only written out to you and hasn’t been altered in any way.

The Aspiration App

Since Aspiration doesn’t have a physical location, the mobile app is where you’ll utilize all of Aspiration’s services. You can see your cards and finances, as well as use all the other standard tools offered with online banking apps.

Apart from seeing your money and card activity, the Aspiration app also provides a score called the Aspiration Impact Measurement, or AIM. It allows you to see how environmentally and socially conscious your spending habits are by creating a sustainability score based on your purchases. This encourages you to be more selective about where you shop, depending on the environmental impact you want to have. Businesses are judged based on how they treat people and the planet and are ranked accordingly.

Saving with Aspiration

While the Aspiration accounts are dubbed collectively as Spend and Save accounts, the “Spend” and “Save” portions are technically separated.

Aspiration Spend is where all of your normal banking transactions take place. Aspiration Save is similar to a regular savings account but has slightly different features.

For starters, you can’t make a direct deposit directly to Aspiration Save. But you can transfer funds easily in between your Aspiration Spend and Save accounts. You can make up to 50 transfers a day between the two, which is more than even some traditional banks. All transfers between the two accounts are instant.

If you have both Aspiration Spend and Save Plus, you get even more savings benefits. Aspiration Save accounts can earn up to 1% APY in interest per month on the first $10,000 in their balance, as long as you spend $1,000 or more with your Aspiration debit card that month.

If you do not meet the spending requirement for a given month, the APY for that month will be 0.25% on the first $10,000 and 0.10% on any funds over that amount.

Traveling with Aspiration

Traveling with an Aspiration debit card is pretty much on par with traveling with most other debit cards. Aspiration designed it to be as easy as possible, so you can use your card wherever Mastercard is accepted.

For those traveling in the US, ATM usage for all in-network ATMs is always free, so you can plan a trip to your favorite state knowing you’ll still have access to your money.

There is a small amount of prep work to do before using your Aspiration debit card while traveling abroad, but it’s simple enough. You need to enable the “International Travel” setting within the app, and there is a $4 fee per international ATM transaction. If you receive a charge more than that fee, Aspiration requests that you reach out to them, and they will reimburse you, so you can travel abroad without worrying too much about costs.

Mastercard does charge a 1% fee on all international transactions, as well. Additionally, Aspiration has blocked usage of its debit cards in some countries to keep your account secure. You can see which countries made that list here.

Aspiration Credit Card

Apart from the Spend and Save accounts, Aspiration offers Aspiration Zero, a credit card focused on rewarding you for being environmentally conscious.

The card offers up to 1% cashback on all your purchases for each month that you reach “carbon zero”. The term refers to your carbon footprint as measured by the Aspiration app. You can track your progress each month in the app, and whenever the number on your footprint reaches zero, you’ll reap the benefits, and so will the planet.

You’re also able to plant a tree for every purchase you make, helping your money go further for the environment.

The Aspiration Zero card isn’t available just yet, but you can stay in the know and get on the waiting list.

Investment Options

If you bank with Aspiration, you’ll have exclusive access to investment accounts just for Aspiration customers. Both the Redwood Fund and Redwood IRA offer investment options that will help you save for the future, all while doing good for the planet.

The Redwood Fund is a mutual fund that allows you to build your portfolio and be socially conscious all at once. The fund only invests in companies committed to a long-term business model that is sustainable for the environment. Like most investors, Aspiration attempts to put money where it thinks the most growth will be. USB Asset Management, one of the largest asset managers in the world, manages the Redwood Fund. 

The Redwood IRA also focuses on helping you build wealth. Like a traditional IRA, it removes taxes upfront while still focusing on investing in sustainable companies.

The Bottom Line

Even though Aspiration has no physical branches, it still succeeds at giving plenty of options to its users and still managing to be very cost-effective. The “Pay What Is Fair” model certainly highlights the company’s commitment to its values to “do the most good”.

Aspiration is an excellent option for those who want a different banking option dedicated to making sure the strides they make are environmentally friendly. The company goes well out of its way to make sure that its impact on the globe is significant, all while still managing to be an efficient and usable financial service.