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 the polar opposite to the motto of most banks which is along the lines of “make money, by whatever means possible”. For most banks, this means investing in financing weapons manufacturing, fracking, and cigarette production.

Sustainability

“Do well, do good” – Aspiration’s slogan – is comprised of three prongs:

  1. No deposits are used for fossil fuel exploration or production
  2. 10% of earnings are given to charity
  3. 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.

Financials

Interest Rates

[Updated 4/04/20] 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 pay $3.99 per month to be enrolled in Aspiration Plus. Aspiration Plus customers can earn up to 1.00% APY on savings accounts up to $10,000.

To earn 1.00% APY interest on Aspiration Save Account balances up to and including $10,000.00 in any calendar month, the customer must be enrolled in Aspiration Plus and spend $1,000 or more, monthly, with their Aspiration debit card. Balances over $10,000.00 will earn 0.10% APY. If the requirements are not met each month, the APY will be 0.25% on Save Account balances up to and including $10,000.00. Balances over $10,000.00 will earn 0.10% APY.

Customers not enrolled in Aspiration Plus will not earn interest. 

I find the latest requirements to earn a high interest rate to be frustrating. I understand that the current economic situation has caused low interest rates. All the banks I’ve seen currently offering a 1% APY have requirements on the amount you need to withdraw or the number of times you need to use your debit card. However, for someone who seldom uses a debit card, the requirements are cumbersome.

Cash Back

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:

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

The Aspiration website 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.

The website is easy to navigate apart from a few exceptions. One, my account and routing numbers being located under “Settings” instead of when I click 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.

I use the app only a limited amount so I won’t comment much on it. 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.

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 appreciate that Aspiration is creating a one stop sustainable investing platform with savings/checking accounts, investment opportunities, and charity opportunities.

Fees

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. 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 a choice.

Customer service

A useful FAQ page answers most of my questions about my Aspiration accounts. 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. Emails are typically responded to within 24 hours and the tone of the reply is helpful and chipper.

Summary

Pros:

  • Fossil fuel free
  • Focus on doing good
  • Friendly user experience and customer service
  • Choose what you want to pay fees, unless you join Aspiration Plus
  • High interest rate of 1% APY if you meet the stringent required criteria
  • Helpful FAQ page,
  • Cash back on spending.

Cons:

  • 0% APY if you do not pay to join Aspiration Plus
  • 0.25% APY if you join Aspiration Plus and do not meet the requirements
  • Customer service phone line not open 24 hours,
  • Limitations around check deposits through the app,
  • No credit card option.

If you are inspired to open an Aspiration account, use this referral link and we both receive free cash.

Photo credit to Aspiration

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