Contributor, Benzinga
June 25, 2021
Aspiration
Overall Rating:
securely through Aspiration's website

Drive down any Main Street USA lined with banks and you might think, what does it matter where my money sits? With most of the structures you pass, it doesn’t. If you want to make a difference in our hurting world, however, you can do it by choosing to bank at Aspiration. 

How is Aspiration different? Companies from cosmetics sellers to palladium miners rashly proclaim commitments to world-changing environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies; spend 10 minutes googling the names and you’ll find no confirmation of that claim. Aspiration makes the same assertion but lives up to it with formal, confirmable business practices you can count on. When you bank with Aspiration, you fund sustainability and eco-friendly initiatives while relying on various  financial  services you could need.

Best For
  • Difference-makers who want to improve our world
  • Fee-conscious savers
  • Busy, time-conscious budgeters looking for one place to bank and invest
Pros
  • Ability to make daily difference to environmental and social justice
  • Sustainability impact tracking feature
  • Efficient app that lets you bank from your phone
  • Signup bonus (up to $200)
  • Cash back rewards at certain locations
  • IRA and investment options in an ESG-friendly managed fund
  • Access to an interest-earning Save account
  • Digital and in-hand debit cards
Cons
  • Online only; no branches to visit
  • Plus card requires an annual fee
  • U.S. customers only

Aspiration Ratings at a Glance

Customer Service
Pricing
Mobile App
User Benefits
User Experience
Overall Rating

Financial Options

Going online to manage your money doesn’t mean going without a full suite of services. You tap into the same kind of banking services in the Aspiration app that you access at full-service banks. Those choices include cash management services, debit card access, cash back, interest on money held, investing, saving for retirement in an IRA and the ability to track your ESG impact. 

Financial Services: Setup for the Aspiration app is as easy and conventional as opening a bank account anywhere. Sign up online, choose Plus or free service, fund the account, nail down what free ATMs you can use in your town, request your debit card and you’re done. It takes far less time than driving to a bank and opening an account with a harried teller, but the result —  a working cash account — is the same.  What’s novel is Aspiration’s social and environmental impact score system that measures your ESG impact and its overarching dedication to saving the planet and its inhabitants.

Debit Card: The dual action debit card at Aspiration gives you a hard-card option to physically hand to a merchant and a digital option to pay electronically. The card arrives in the mail, is easily replaced if you lose it and carries only the fee you want to pay, if any, with Aspiration’s Pay What is Fair program.

IRA for Retirement Savings: Open a regular or retirement account to access a professionally managed mutual fund.

Tree Planting: With Plant Your Change For All, you can choose to plant a tree every time you make a purchase. Aspiration rounds up purchases on your linked debit or credit card to the nearest dollar and works with its partners to plant a tree. 

ESG Pledge: Corporate commitments to ESG so often peter out as pure lip service. Aspiration pledges 10% of every dollar its customers pays to charities helping struggling Americans build a better life. That practice makes Aspiration the financial industry’s leader in giving back.

Aspiration Customer Service

It’s nice to be able to easily get help when you have a problem. Whether you want to email, chat, or call, we found that Aspiration Is there for you. Many other banking apps have dropped or have never offered a way for customers to talk to a person. At Aspiration, you call; they answer. 

Aspiration Pricing

Join free (or Pay What is Fair) as a Spend and Save Customer or sign up for $7.99 per month ($5.99 per month with annual subscription) as an Aspiration Plus member. Customers enrolled in Aspiration Plus receive:

  • 10% cash back at mission-focused Conscience Coalition merchants
  • Up to 1.00% Annual Percentage Yield (APY is variable) on the first $10,000.00 in their Save Account (with restrictions)
  • Planet Protection, which automatically provides carbon offsets for every gas purchase
  • One out-of-network ATM fee reimbursement per month (in addition to unlimited fee-free withdrawals at our network of over 55,000 ATMs)
  • A sleek, new debit card made from recycled ocean plastic (They’ll get it to you as quickly as we can; in the meantime, you can continue using your current debit card or digital card to receive these new benefits)

Customers can enroll in Aspiration Plus by logging into their account on our website or mobile app, navigating to Settings, then clicking Aspiration Plus. Customers who are not enrolled in Aspiration Plus do not earn interest on their deposits.

Aspiration Mobile App

Mobile cash access at Aspiration stands straight for ease, attractiveness, reliability and breadth. Accomplish financial or investing actions in a clean-looking, well-organized app experience. I still have to search for 40 seconds to find the mobile check deposit link on an old-school-bank app; in the Aspiration app, you’re taking a snap of the check in 15 seconds. That saves time and irritation.

Another great feature the mobile app welcomes is a check of your AIM (Aspiration Impact Measurement). See your own Sustainability Score – the impact you’re making on People and the Planet – based on where you’re shopping and spending every day.

Aspiration User Benefits

Since you already know you can count on Aspiration for all the normal banking actions, what's the real benefit of keeping your money here? Hands down, it’s the ESG commitment that attracts users like you. What do other banks invest in? The top four banks alone are investing $240 billion per year in fossil fuels, which is heck of a lot of dirty money. Aspiration sets the standard with Clean Finance, its commitment to divest from dirty, harmful industries and invest only in positive change.

Aspiration User Experience

You’ll love using Aspiration. The features meet your needs, and the corporate vision exceeds them: 

  • Earn $150 when you spend $1,000 in the first 60 days of account opening. (Or $200 when you sign up for Aspiration Plus and spend that same $1,000 within the first 60 days).
  • Receive up to 5% cash back on socially conscious spending at Conscience Coalition merchants (like TOMS, Warby Parker and more).
  • Get paid up to 2 days early.
  • Access 55,000+ Fee-free ATM Network.
  • Pay what is fair, with no hidden fees.
  • Turn every transaction into a positive action.
  • Reforest the planet with every enabled purchase roundup.
  • See business People & Planet impact scores as you shop.
  • Amplify your impact with Aspiration Plus.
  • Net $200 when you spend $1000 in the first 60 days of account opening with Aspiration Plus. 
  • Count on up to 10% cash back on socially conscious spending.
  • Drive in carbon neutral, with carbon offsets on all gas purchases with Aspiration Plus 

Aspiration vs. Competitors

Aspiration stacks high in the “application software” sector in which it and its competitors live. It provides the basics of money management  —  deposits, withdrawals, ATMs, cash back  —  with a combo of additional services you’d find hard to cobble together anywhere else. At Aspiration’s one-stop financial service app, you can save, invest for retirement and make a palpable ESG difference.

Aspiration Overall Rating

Aspiration gets an A+++++ when it comes to the kind of ESG that matters to me and you. Although it’s still tweaking some of the nuts and bolts that keep it from the perfect 5 we anticipate it to reach, we love this banking alternative for its commitment to social responsibility. Aspiration’s mission means that you as its customer can tenaciously support ESG values.  

Aspiration fulfills this CFP®’s dream, providing the automation we seek to help clients develop and maintain strong budgeting, bill-paying, retirement saving, managing money and investing habits. And you can do it all whileLife is a game of inches; make every one of yours count.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q

Is Aspiration legit?

A

Yes, not only is Aspiration legit, it’s as safe and protective as the stuffy concrete edifice in your town that you’ve used as free concert parking for decades. As with other popular online financial services companies, Aspiration is not technically a “bank” in the legal definition of the term. It’s like a bank, and since it formally partners with a bank, you can count on the same kind of safety for your money as you’d get at a bank. “Safety” means FDIC insurance for your account if the bank defrauds you or goes bankrupt. 

Q

What bank is Aspiration associated with?

A

Community Bank, which holds depositor funds, issues debit cards and provides the structure that insures money held in Aspiration accounts.

Aspiration chose its banking partner with the same socially aware attitude that it brings to your dollars; Coastal is one of the few banks in the convoluted cannabis banking space, offering cannabis businesses of all sizes options to expend and receive funds.

Disclaimer: The Aspiration Spend & Save Accounts are cash management accounts offered through Aspiration Financial, LLC, a registered broker-dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC, a subsidiary of Aspiration Partners, Inc. (“Aspiration”). Aspiration is under separate ownership from any other named entity. Paid experience may not be representative of others and is no guarantee of future success. Deposits in your Aspiration account are FDIC-insured up to $2.5 million per depositor by being swept to FDIC Member institutions. For details,  visit fdic.gov and aspiration.com/program-banks. Nothing in this material should be construed as an offer, solicitation of an offer, or advice to buy or sell securities. Aspiration does not offer or provide tax, financial, or legal advice. Aspiration is not a bank. 

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About Kathryn Hauer, CFP®

Kathy is an expert in finance (personal, corporate), financial planning, financial literacy, tax preparation and laws, saving and investing, retirement, insurance, careers, college education planning and financing, cannabis, gig economy, forming and running a business, credit and debt issues, blue-collar workers, and military issues. She has a strong interest in crypto, DeFi, FinTech, InsureTech, AgTech.