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 the polar opposite to the motto of most banks which is along the lines of “make money, by whatever means possible”.
[UPDATE December 2021] Aspiration should be praised for being one of the leaders in the “clean bank” field. However, Aspiration has complicated their position through opacity and complicated requirements. Read on to learn more.
- Fossil fuel-free.
- Focus on doing good.
- Friendly user experience and customer service.
- Choose what you want to pay fees.
- Helpful FAQ page.
- Cash back on spending.
- Lack of transparency around carbon calculations
- Complex and onerous requirements to receive higher interest rate
- Customer service phone line not open 24 hours
- Limitations around check deposits through the app
Aspiration Bank was founded in 2013. They were one of the first of a new wave of fossil fuel-free “banks”. The majority of these banks are financial-technology (fintech) companies which partner with banks. Aspiration partners with the “Aspiration Sweep Network” of banks. Aspiration customer deposits are held in the network of banks.
“Do well, do good” – Aspiration’s slogan – is comprised of three prongs:
- No deposits are used to fund oil or coal industries
- 10% of monthly fees that users choose to pay
- Aspiration is a certified B Corporation. They have scored in the top 10% of B Corporation companies for impact in both the community category and overall.
We reached out to Aspiration to ask about if the funds are used for gas or other non-oil and coal fossil fuels. They replied that they do not invest in fossil fuels of any kind. We wonder about why the website does not specify “fossil fuels”.
[Updated 12/06/2021] Aspiration’s interest rates can be seen below.
|$0-$999.99 Spend in a given month||0.00% APY||* 0.25% on balances up to $10,000.00|
* 0.10% on balances greater than 10,000.00
|$1,000+ Spend in a given month||* 3.00% APY on balances up to $10,000.00|
* 0.00% APY on balances greater than $10,000.00
|* 5.00% on balances up to $10,000.00|
* 0.10% on balances greater than $10,000.00
Customers may find the requirements to earn a high interest rate to be frustrating. To achieve higher interest rates, the requirements are onerous – a certain amount must be spent, Aspiration Plus must be purchased, and the high interest rate is applied only to balances of up to $10,000.
Aspiration offers cash back if you use their debit card at certain locations. The cash back rates vary by where you are making your purchases. You can earn:
- 10% cash back from purchases at businesses in the Conscience Coalition
- 0.5% for businesses with high Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM) scores.
Zero percent (0%) cashback is offered if you shop at companies not in the Conscience Coalition or without a high AIM score.
Deposits of up to $2.5 million are FDIC insured. FDIC insurance for a savings account is a requirement for many users and is appreciated.
The Aspiration website provides an excellent user experience. It was easy to open an account and the website feels inviting, clean, and friendly. Accounts are comprised of two accounts: “spend” and “save”.
The website is easy to navigate apart from a few exceptions. One, account and routing numbers being located under “Settings” instead of on the account. Two, that there are only 10 transactions per page shown. Three, the only way to filter transactions by the number of days (e.g. last 60 days) is through exporting a file.
The mobile application (app) is simple and easy to use. One frustrating limitation that it does have 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.
Aspiration is one of the first “clean” banks to offer a credit card. Aspiration plants a tree every time the user make a purchase with the card. They also offer to let the user round up their purchase to plant an additional tree.
The app tracks the user’s carbon footprint and the amount offsetted through tree planting. Every month you get to carbon zero, you will receive up to 1% cash back on all purchases.
We appreciate that Aspiration is leading the way with a credit card. We also laud the incentive to get to zero carbon. However, this is a complex way to incentivize emissions reductions and to achieve 1% cashback. Additionally, Aspiration states that their carbon calculations are proprietary. This results in a lack of transparency about how carbon zero is calculated.
In addition to the Spend and Save accounts, Aspiration offers an investment opportunity: Redwood Fund (REDWX). REDWX is a environmental, social, and governance (ESG) mutual fund. Aspiration also offers a Traditional IRA account from which you can invest in REDWX.
We applaud Aspiration’s creation of a one stop sustainable investing platform with savings/checking accounts and investment opportunities.
The 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. We find this to be an odd model. We wonder how many people are willing to pay a significant fee but appreciate that there is no fee, if we chose to not pay one.
A useful FAQ page answers most of my questions about Aspiration accounts. The customer support phone line is not open 24 hours but we have found the staff to be helpful and friendly if we call. Emails are typically responded to within 24 hours and the tone of the reply is helpful and chipper.
Photo credit to Aspiration