Aspiration doesn't sound like a name for a financial institution.
It sounds like a self-help site that shows photos of the author on top of a mountain near Machu Picchu.You know the photo I'm talking about. 🙂
But it is and I think what they are hoping to accomplish is something many other financial institutions should put front and center.
Before we get to their social mission, I want to evaluate them on the basis of a financial services firm. Social good is important but so is personal good. If a financial institution doesn't offer good products, then it's hard to argue that the social mission trumps bad products.
Fortunately, Aspiration delivers on that front too.
First things first, Aspiration is not a bank. Aspiration Financial, LLC is an SEC-registered broker-dealer and member FINRA/SIPC.
Since Aspiration is not a bank, you won't be able to find them on the FDIC Bank Find tool. When you deposit funds, they are swept into multiple FDIC-insured members who each provide FDIC insurance for your funds.
Aspiration Spend & Save Account
This is the name Aspiration gives to their cash management account.
Their Spend account comes with a debit card that gives you 0.25% cash back on all purchases. It isn't as good as 1-2% cash back from a credit card but it's pretty good for a debit card. Very few institutions offer cash back on debit card purchases.
Their Save account offers a competitive interest rate of up to 2.00% APY, putting it near the top of high yield savings accounts.
There are two added perks worth mentioning:
- They offer up to $1,000 in expense reimbursement for identity theft fraud.
- They offer secondary cell phone protection insurance of $600 per claim, $1,000 per 12 month period. It covers damage and theft. Just pay your bill with the Aspiration debit card.
Where is the Summit Account?
If you read other reviews talking about a Summit Account but can't seem to find it anywhere, it's because the Summit Account was discontinued (and those reviews are out of date). The Aspiration Summit Account was the precursor to their current Spend & Save Cash Management Account. It was an interest-bearing checking account that offered somewhere around 1.00% APY.
They recently discontinued it but many of the same features are now available within the Spend & Save.
Very Few Fees
Like many online fin-tech startups, Aspiration doesn't have a lot of fees.
- No monthly maintenance fees (you pay what you want, which can be $0)
- No overdraft fees (they decline transactions that would overdraft you)
- No minimum balances ($10 to open, $0 to maintain)
- Free bill pay & one set of personal checks
They also offer unlimited ATM reimbursement, including international ATMs.
For services with a fee, they charge what it costs them to provide the service and not a penny more. What they charge for a wire transfer is what it costs them to send or receive that wire transfer.
Aspiration's Social Mission
Aspiration's social mission permeates a few aspects of the business. Most notably, they commit to donating 10% of their earnings to charity.
Another way they embody their mission is by showing you your AIM personal People/Planet impact score. AIM stands for Aspiration Impact Measurement, which is their own proprietary algorithm, which is itself based on where you spend your money. It feels a little self-perpetuating but since this type of calculation doesn't exist elsewhere, it seems to fit.
They calculate the AIM People and Planet scores in this way: “People scores reflect company metrics like employee pay, access to healthcare, workforce diversity, and more. Planet scores are based on metrics such as greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency, and renewable energy use.”
The Aspiration Spend Account and the Aspiration Save Account are part of a cash management account offering of Aspiration Financial, LLC (“Aspiration”), an SEC-registered broker dealer. After the close of business each business day, the cash balances in the Aspiration Spend and Save Accounts are swept to an account at one or more federally insured depository institutions (each a “Bank”). The deposits at the Banks are eligible for insurance by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), subject to FDIC insurance coverage limits. For more information about FDIC insurance coverage, please visit the FDIC website. As stated in the Aspiration Financial, LLC Customer Account Agreement (Customer Account Agreement), customers are responsible for monitoring their total assets at the Bank to determine the extent of available FDIC insurance. FDIC insurance coverage is in accordance with applicable law and regulations, including the FDIC’s laws and regulations relating to “pass-through” federal deposit insurance treatment. The names of the current Banks that maintain the Aspiration Spend and Save Accounts are made available within your periodic statements and may vary over time. Deposits at the Banks are not eligible for SIPC coverage. Aspiration Spend is a non-interest bearing account with electronic transaction functionality. Aspiration Save is an interest-bearing account. Full disclosure about Aspiration Spend and Aspiration Save is available in the Spend & Save Supplement to the Customer Account Agreement. Investments placed in the Redwood or Flagship Funds available through Aspiration are not eligible for FDIC Insurance, are not bank guaranteed and may lose value.
The Aspiration Spend & Save Account is a cash management account offered by Aspiration Financial, LLC, a broker-dealer registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and a member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). Aspiration Financial, LLC (Aspiration Financial) provides brokerage services and securities products. Its affiliate company, Aspiration Fund Adviser, LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser, provides investment advisory services. Aspiration Fund Adviser, LLC and Aspiration Financial, LLC are subsidiaries of Aspiration Partners, Inc. Neither Aspiration Partners, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries is a bank.