Aspiration Bank Review

Aspiration account Overview

Aspiration Bank is a different type of bank. It is an online only bank whose motto is “do well, do good”. This motto is polar opposite to the motto of most banks which is along the lines of “make money, by whatever means possible”, with those means including financing weapons manufacturing, fracking, and cigarette production.

Sustainability

Aspiration’s claim to “do well, do good” is three pronged:

  1. It uses no deposits for fossil fuel exploration or production
  2. It gives 10% of its earnings to charity
  3. It is a certified B Corporation, where they have scored in the top 10% for impact in both the community category and overall.

Financials

[Updated 3/27/20] Federal Reserve interest rate cuts have decreased the interest levels of most savings accounts. Aspiration’s most recent interest rates can be seen below.

Customers can earn 0.25% interest on the first $10,000 in their Save Account in any given month (and 0.05% on the remaining balance) by taking both of the following steps:

  1. Neutralize their impact on the climate by turning on Planet Protection.
    and
  2. Make a total of at least $2,000 in deposits during that calendar month (these can be divided between any of their Aspiration accounts).

If the deposit requirement is not met, customers can still earn 0.05% APY interest on their entire Save Account balance by turning on Planet Protection.

Aspiration offers cash back if you use their debit card. The cash back rates vary by where you are making your purchases. You can earn:

  • 5% cash back from purchases at businesses in the Conscience Coalition
  • 0.5% for businesses with high Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM) scores
  • 0.1% for all other purchases.

I do wish that Aspiration offered a credit card, for all the obvious reasons that many people have credit cards: access to debt, consumer protection, and points.

Deposits of up to $2 million are FDIC insured. FDIC insurance for a savings account is a requirement for me. I want my savings account to be low risk and not a reason for worry, in the case that there is another financial crisis.

User experience

I think Aspiration provides an excellent user experience. It was easy to open an account and the website feels inviting, clean, and friendly. My account is comprised of two accounts: “spend” and “save”. After a lifetime of having a checking (“spend) and savings (“save) account, this slightly different terminology took a bit of time for my brain to adjust but I now like the division.

I generally find the website easy to navigate with a few exceptions such as my account and routing numbers being located under “Settings” instead of when I click on the account, that there are only 10 transactions per page shown, and the only way to filter transactions by number of days (e.g. last 60 days) is through exporting a file.

I use the app only a limited amount so I won’t comment much on it. One frustrating limitation that it does has is that if you want to deposit a check of larger than $5,000, you must mail the check in to them. There is probably a security reason behind this but other banks allow for larger deposits so it seems odd.

Product offerings

In addition to the Spend and Save accounts, Aspiration offers:

  • Two investment funds, Redwood Fund (REDWX) and Aspiration Flagship Fund (ASPFX), with a $10 minimum opening deposit
  • An Aspiration Traditional IRA account from which you can invest in REDWX and ASPFX
  • A list of 7 vetted charitable causes to which you can make tax deductible donations from your Spend or Save account.

I will talk more about the investment funds in a future blog. In general, I appreciate that Aspiration is creating a one stop sustainable investing platform with savings/checking accounts, investment opportunities, and charity opportunities.

Fees

Aspiration’s fee policy is “you pay us what you think is fair.” Customers set the monthly fee to whatever they want and can change it as often as they like. 10% of fees paid is donated to the charity Accion, which provides loans to small businesses. I find this to be an odd model and wonder how many people are willing to pay a significant fee but I appreciate that I at least have choice.

Customer service

Aspiration offers a useful FAQ page which ends up answering most of my questions. The customer support phone line is not open 24 hours but I have found the staff to be helpful and friendly if I have had to call for any reason.

Summary

Pros: Fossil fuel free, focus on doing good, friendly user experience, choose what you want to pay fees, high interest rate of 1% APY if you meet the required criteria, helpful FAQ page, cash back on spending.

Cons: 0% interest rate if you do not meet the 1% APY criteria, customer service line not open 24 hours, limitations around check deposits through the app, no credit card option.

If you are inspired to join, you can use this referral link and we both receive free cash.

Photo credit to Aspiration

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