Aspiration was founded in 2015 as an online-only financial firm (not a bank) that focuses on helping customers make ethical choices with their money. Aspiration does not offer traditional checking or savings accounts, but customers can use its Spend & Save cash management account (CMA) for their day-to-day financial needs and transactions.
- Pros & Cons
- Company Overview
“Pay What Is Fair” policy regarding fee structure
Impressive APY on savings
Earn cash back on purchases with ethical retailers
Deposits do not fund fossil fuel exploration or production
Highest APY only available with a higher fee account with several eligibility requirements
No way to deposit cash
Highest cash back only available with a higher fee account
Out-of-network ATM fees are unclear
- Year Founded 2013
- Official Website www.aspiration.com
- Banking Products Offered CMA
- Customer Support Phone line: Monday–Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. (PST); Saturday–Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (PST): 800-683-8529.
- “Pay What Is Fair” policy regarding fee structure – With the basic Aspiration Spend & Save account, customers can choose their monthly fee amount, between $0 and $20.
- Impressive APY on savings – With the Aspiration Plus account, savers can earn up to a 1.0% annual percentage yield (APY) on balances up to $10,000. Balances above that amount earn a 0.10% APY, which is still higher than many savings account rates with traditional banks.
- Earn cash back on purchases with ethical retailers – Customers can earn between 3% and 10% cash back when they make purchases with their Aspiration debit card at one of the businesses in the Conscience Coalition. This coalition is made up of companies who have put “doing the right thing” at the heart of their businesses, including such retailers as TOMS, Warby Parker, and Blue Apron.
- Deposits do not fund fossil fuel exploration or production – Aspiration promises its customers that their deposits will not inadvertently fund climate change. Though the Aspiration website does not provide explicit information about how it ensures that deposits do not fund fossil fuels, research website AltEnergyStocks.com has determined that Aspiration deposits “are fossil fuel free by all but the most strict definitions of the term.”
- Highest APY only available with a higher fee account with several eligibility requirements – The impressive 1.0% APY is only available with the Aspiration Plus account, which has a $15 per month fee. In addition, to be eligible for the 1.0% APY you must spend at least $1,000 per month with your Aspiration debit card. Otherwise, you will receive 0.25% APY. In either case the APY for balances above $10,000 will be 0.10%.
- No way to deposit cash – Though Aspiration is hardly novel in being an online-only institution with no branches, unlike some other digital-only banks, Aspiration offers customers no options whatsoever for depositing cash.
- Highest cash back only available with a higher fee account – Customers can receive cash back for making Aspiration debit card purchases at companies within the Conscience Coalition, but the highest levels of cash back are reserved for the Aspiration Plus account.
- Out-of-network fees are unclear – Aspiration is part of the Allpoint ATM network, which gives customers access to 55,000 fee-free ATMs. However, the website does not spell out how much customers can expect to pay if they use an ATM outside of the network.
Who Is Aspiration Best For?
Aspiration will appeal to socially and environmentally conscious customers who are comfortable with a nontraditional financial institution. Aspiration will be a good fit if you:
- Prefer to earn interest in a CMA
- Want to bank with an institution that cares about sustainability and social issues
- Would like the flexibility of choosing your own monthly fee
- Want incentives to spend your money with ethical companies and retailers
- Do not often need to deposit cash
- Are comfortable with an online-only banking experience
- Need access to a large network of fee-free ATMs
What Does Aspiration Offer?
Aspiration does not offer traditional checking or savings accounts. Instead, Aspiration customers have a CMA, which is a brokerage account that allows you to manage cash, make payments, and earn interest. The Aspiration CMA offerings allow customers to use a single account for their checking account and savings account needs.
Though Aspiration is not a bank, and CMAs are not the same as traditional bank accounts, customer deposits are still insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) up to $250,000. That’s because the money you deposit to Aspiration is held at one of the institution’s partner banks, all of which offer FDIC insurance.
Aspiration Spend & Save
Aspiration Spend & Save is the basic CMA for customers. This account allows customers to spend and save from the same place while still providing you with many of the benefits of a checking account. There are no minimum balance requirements, and you get to choose your monthly fee (which could be anywhere from $0 to $20 per month). The opening minimum is just $10.
Customers receive a debit card with this account, which earns cash back on purchases from a variety of retailers. You will also earn interest on money that is not spent, which means you can earn money with both the Spend & Save sides of the CMA.
To earn cash back customers can spend money with one of the 16 companies that are part of the Conscience Coalition. You will receive a different cash back percentage with a Conscience Coalition purchase, depending on which company you are purchasing from.
|Company||Cash Back Percentage|
|United by Blue||5%|
|This Bar Saves Lives||3%|
In addition to Conscience Coalition cash back, you can also earn cash back by spending money with companies that have high Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM) scores. The AIM score rates companies based on their ethical treatment of people and the planet, and the companies with the highest scores earn Aspiration debit card purchasers 0.5% cash back. Companies with lower scores earn lower percentages of cash back.
Any money you do not spend is considered to be in the “Save” side of an Aspiration CMA. However, unlike a traditional savings account, you are not limited to six savings withdrawals per month. That said, you may only transfer money from your Aspiration CMA to an external linked account once per day.
Unfortunately, if you only have the basic Aspiration Spend & Save Account, you do not qualify for interest on your savings balance. To take advantage of the high-yield savings aspect of the Aspiration CMA, you will need to enroll in the Aspiration Plus Account.
The biggest benefits of Aspiration’s CMAs are exclusively for Aspiration Plus customers. Unlike the basic Spend & Save account, Aspiration Plus has a set monthly fee of $15, although you can save a little money if you opt to pay a single annual fee.
With Aspiration Plus, your cash back rewards for spending with Conscience Coalition members is raised to 10% across the board, although the amounts you earn by shopping with companies with high AIM scores remain the same. Aspiration Plus account holders also receive one out-of-network ATM fee reimbursement per month.
An interesting perk of Aspiration Plus is the Planet Protection benefit, which automatically buys carbon offsets based on the number of gasoline purchases an account holder makes with the debit card. This allows Aspiration Plus customers to offset their fossil fuel usage automatically. Planet Protection is free for Aspiration Plus customers, but those who have the basic Aspiration account can also sign up for the service for $5.99 per month or $59 per year.
The savings portion of your Aspiration Plus account also has added benefits. To start, even if you do nothing else, you will earn a 0.25% APY on your savings balance up to $10,000, and 0.10% thereafter. If you also spend at least $1,000 per month on your Aspiration debit card, you will receive a 1.0% APY on savings up to $10,000 and 0.10% thereafter.
Other Financial Products Offered by Aspiration
In addition to its two CMAs, Aspiration also has the following products and services:
- Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)
- Managed Investment Portfolios
Aspiration Customer Service
Aspiration offers both current and potential customers a thorough FAQ section on its website that can help you find the answers to nearly any question about its offerings. The institution’s mobile app is well rated on both Google Play and iTunes, with 4.5 stars and 4.8 stars, respectively.
If you need to talk to a customer service representative, the support phone line is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. PST on Saturday and Sunday at 800-683-8529. However, there is no live chat option available on the website. To reach customer service you either have to call or submit a written request.
How to Bank With Aspiration
Opening an account with Aspiration is an easy online process. Once you have opened your account, the mobile app will make transactions simple and convenient. You can also withdraw money and check your balance at any Allpoint ATM for free.
Banking customers who worry about the social and environmental impact of their financial choices may be well served by an Aspiration Spend & Save account. Not only can you rest assured that your deposits with Aspiration are not funding fossil fuels; your ethical purchases can also reward you with cash back. And the flexibility of choosing your own monthly fee and accessing your savings more often than six times per month can be an added benefit for socially conscious customers. That does not mean Aspiration is the right choice for everyone. To start, the highest level benefits are reserved for a higher-fee account, which may put such benefits out of reach of some customers. Additionally, the fact that Aspiration is not a traditional bank and does not offer traditional savings and checking accounts, credit cards, or other banking products may mean it is too niche of an institution for a general customer who needs more services under one roof.
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