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 based on 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.
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Technically, Aspiration is not a bank – it’s known as a fintech company. Aspiration Financial, LLC is an SEC-registered broker-dealer and member FINRA/SIPC.
Since Aspiration is not technically a bank, or an online 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.¹
The bank that Aspiration partners with may change but currently the top of the list is Coastal Community Bank, FDIC #34403. They’ve been in business since 1997 and are headquartered in Everett, Washington. Aspiration has a list of multiple partner banks that include:
- Coastal Community Bank
- Amalgamated Bank
- Manufacturers Bank
- C3Bank, NA
- The Freedom Bank of Virginia
- Bridgewater Bank
Aspiration Spend & Save Account
Aspiration doesn’t have a named “checking” or “savings” account – they call it Spend & Save.
The key idea to remember about the account is that your benefits are based on whether you have an Aspiration account or an Aspiration Plus account.
With an Aspiration Spend & Save, you pay what you want (even $0) and get a competitive interest rate of up to 3.00% APY on your Save balance every month you spend $1,000 or more on the card, putting it near the top of high yield savings accounts.³
Their Spend & Save plans offer up to 3-5% cashback on socially conscious spending.² This is when you use your debit card with one of the merchants in the Conscience Coalition, which is something they created to determine businesses that meet their socially conscious requirements.
With an Aspiration Plus Spend & Save, you pay $7.99 per month (or $5.99 per month if you pay it annually) but you get an even better interest rate of 5.0%0 APY on your Save balance every month you spend at least $1,000.
With Aspiration Plus, the Spend & Save plans offers 10% cashback on socially conscious spending.² Again, this is when you make debit card purchases at one of the merchants in the Conscience Coalition.
You get one out-of-network ATM reimbursement each month.
There are two added perks worth mentioning:
- They offer up to $1,000 in expense reimbursement for identity theft fraud.⁴
- 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.⁵
Aspiration $150 or $200 New Account Bonus
Aspiration is offering a bonus for new accounts.
If you open a standard Aspiration account, the bonus is $150 when you spend $1,000 in the first 60 days.
If you open an Aspiration Plus account, the bonus is $200 when you spend more than $1,000 in the first 60 days. Recall that the Aspiration Plus account has a monthly fee.
Like many online fin-tech startups, Aspiration doesn’t have a lot of fees.
- No monthly maintenance fees for Aspiration (you pay what you want, which can be $0) – fee is higher for Aspiration Plus
- 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 fee-free ATM use at over 55,000+ ATMs nationwide.⁶
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 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.”⁷
Finally, we have the Conscience Coalition, a list of companies where you can earn greater cash back rewards when you use your debit card. This includes companies like Cariuma, Warby Parker, Blue Apron, Arcadia Power, Dropps, Lola, and Cloud Paper.
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. Aspiration is not a bank.
¹ Deposits in your Aspiration account are FDIC-insured up to $2 million per depositor by being swept to FDIC Member institutions. Visit fdic.gov and aspiration.com/program-banks/ for details.
² Aspiration’s Cash Back program is subject to change at any time and without notice, including reversal of rewards for abuse, fraud, and other illicit activity. Cash Back rewards are generally credited on the first day of each calendar month. Aspiration Standard customers receive up to 3-5% cash back while Aspiration Plus members receive up to 10% cash back. Everyday cashback is earned through AIM. For additional Cash Back details, click here & here.
³ The Aspiration Save Account’s up to 5.00% Annual Percentage Yield (“APY”) with up to 20x the national interest rate is variable, subject to change, and only available to customers enrolled in Aspiration Plus after conditions are met. Terms & FAQ.
⁴ Aspiration’s Identity Fraud Expense Reimbursement Policy.
⁵ Aspiration’s Cell Phone Protection Coverage Policy.
⁶ ATM use is free and unlimited at all Allpoint Network ATMs. Transaction amount caps may apply. Out-of-network ATM usage may result in additional charges and fees. Customers enrolled in Aspiration Plus may receive one out-of-network ATM fee reimbursement per month. ATM Locator. ⁷ Aspiration provides customers with the ability to see Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM) People and Planet scores on a range of merchants where they shop using the Aspiration Debit Card. These scores are determined using a proprietary algorithm that incorporates several measures of sustainability performance. For more information, please click here.