I remember my first bank account – it was actually at a local credit union.
It was at Teachers Federal Credit Union, we were eligible because my mom worked in the school, and I didn't even get a debit card. I was too young, they just gave me a slip of paper with my account number on it!
It wasn't until I went to college that I got a proper account and debit card. The account was with PNC Bank, the interest rate was non-existent, but I had a debit card that I could use at the student union's ATMs to get cash.
It wasn't until many years later that online banks would become a thing.
So, when I first heard about Aspiration, I thought it was a self-help site. Aspire to be a better version of yourself!
Ha, it turns out that it's not – it's a banking service.
Aspiration is a new kind of socially conscious banking startup that offers a checking and savings account with some great perks.
Save and Spend Account
They call their checking and savings account the Save and Spend Account.
The Spend account is a checking account that comes with a debit card and a 0.5% cashback on all purchases. At some companies, those with a higher sustainability score, you can earn more than the 0.5% cash back. Debit cards rarely offer cash back so this is a great benefit.
The Save account is a savings account that currently pays a 2.00% APY interest rate. Go check out the interest rate of your local bank, it'll most likely be 0.01%-0.02%.
Best of all, there are no monthly maintenance fees. You'll need $10 to open an account but there's no minimum balance required. If you open it, decide you need the money, you can take it out and not face any penalties.
There are also no overdraft fees. Overdraft fees are a huge business for many banks, who earn billions of dollars, and Aspiration doesn't charge any. If you attempt a transaction that would put you under $0, they simply decline it. Other banks let you complete the transaction and then pop you with a $35 fee.
What I like
I love the high-interest rate on the savings account and I love the 0.5% cash back on the debit card, but that's not all they offer.
You get unlimited worldwide ATM fee reimbusements. You can use any ATM anywhere and they will refund you any fees that ATM charges you. You could be in the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas or outside a mall in Beijing, China – any fees the ATM charges you will be reimbursed by Aspiration.
You get free cell phone insurance. Simply pay your monthly cell phone bill with your debit card and you get coverage. They cover up to $600 per claim and $1,000 per year in theft or damage, with a few exceptions (like they won't fix cosmetic issues like a scratch).
You get $1,000 in identity theft expense reimbursement. If your identity is stolen or some other incidence of fraud, they will cover your expenses up to $1,000.
They donate 10% to charity. They donate 10% of their earnings to charity, which is a great thing. This idea of social good, of being sustainable, permeates a lot of areas. They have their own ratings systems for companies, for how they treat their people and the environment, to help you determine the best businesses to work with.
What I don't like
This is a minor complaint but there's no way to deposit cash. I don't get a lot of cash but when I do, I'd rather put it in a bank account where it can earn interest.
I don't want it sitting around the house where I can lose it. Or forget about it.
Lastly, it's an online bank so there are the other typical issues you might have with an online bank. There's never the option to go to a branch to talk to someone, you always have to go through the website. Their customer service gets good ratings so I wouldn't be concerned about that, but it might be something you care about.But this feels super nitpicky because they're offering a high interest rate – they can offer a higher interest rate because they don't have to pay for branches. That means all the money they save on rent, buildings, tellers, electricity… all gets passed onto you.
If you want to learn more, they have a lot of information on the Aspiration website.