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.
This is the name Aspiration gave to their all encompassing cash management account, which includes a checking (Spend) and savings (Save) balance.
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.
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Dasheo Jackson says
Thank you very much Jim. Well-rounded review. Still looking for the differences between their “Spend & Save” vs. “Save”–if any.
Jim Wang says
It’s two accounts, the checking version and the savings version.
James Dutton says
There are literally thousands of complaints about Aspiration on many sites. Talk to customers that have had experience with them and be wary of their positive reviews as they sound copy pasted and bot like. I wish I had checked them thoroughly before putting my money there.
Jim Wang says
What happened to you when you used Aspiration?
DO NOT USE THIS COMPANY. They Have had my money for NINE MONTHS and i still cant use my card because of a “bug” that they have been “working on” SCAM SCAM SCAM
Althea H says
I haven’t had a bad experience with them. What happened?
Bait & switch. From May 2019 when they switched the Summit accounts to Spend & Save, they offered 1% interest for the Spend account and 2% interest for Save. Then they dropped interest from checking, and in order to get a 1% interest on Save you have to deposit a whopping $1000 per MONTH. Transactions post slowly, and transfers sometimes don’t work (that $200 you needed to move so you could pay bills? Sorry). Cash back and ATM fee reimbursement are nice, and I do like the sustainability mission, but they’re not actually very transparent about their investments, and you can find the advantages elsewhere without all the fine print that makes saving inaccessible to people who need it most.
Also, I invested in their Redwood fund for my IRA. You can start investing for just $10, not the usual $1000, but at some point they “upgraded” the system. I had been putting $25 into it every two weeks (I know it’s pathetic, but so is my income, hush). I paused the recurring investment when I took a different job, and then when I got a raise I went to restart the investment. Their system kept giving me a message that the amount I wanted to invest was too high given my reported income. So I tried “fluffing” my income a little. 40,000? 50,000? 100,000? 150,000? Nope, still too poor to invest $50/month. I contacted support and they gave me some generic, condescending, probably legally required language about investment risk and so on. So, I changed my income to 200,000. Boy, were my coworkers surprised when I went in and told them about my “raise!”
TL;DR you get 0 interest on savings unless you have $1000 to sock away every month (pahahahaha, can I marry you? geez), and you aren’t allowed to invest $600 unless you say you make $200,000. Support seriously doesn’t care – they reply, but the tone is a general “yeah whatever loser, we don’t care about your below poverty level pittance.” Which I guess is fair, no banks really do.
Anyhoo, I’m moving my IRA to Green Century (more for the social mission than the performance) and my cash management to a local credit union.
Vara Heyman says
Aspiration’s Dispute teams and Customer Service are lacking, at best. I had to get FINRA involved in a dispute that was drawn out over several months (of which I have every email saved). I now have a new dispute with them about how their transactions were posted. After between 2-3 weeks, they’ve come back w/ the same “it’s your fault” response. They claim no accountability now (despite several different possible issues/glitches previously tossed about). While I admire their mission goal, their service leaves a lot to be desired w/ account management, transparency, and responsibility. Lastly, I have to call several times to get anything done, despite assurances it’s been done when it hasn’t, or is “in process.”
Pat Freeman Nesberg says
I’ve been an Aspiration customer since the beginning in late 2015 and have ridden the waves of upgrades and changes along the way.
I love the lack of fees and the crazy low fees; for example the wire transfer fee was 89 cents rather than $20 or more you’d pay elsewhere.
Aspiration is still small. The customer service folks are exactly what I’d want and expect from this type of organization: well spoken, intelligent, knowledgeable, warm and friendly, never canned, quick to resolve the question or issue.
I am a Plus customer, so I plant trees automatically with my change. This is great for me. I also negate my carbon footprint when I purchase fuel for my car with my Aspiration card. No one needs to pay the $3.99 to be a Plus customer, but I bet many are, willingly.
I’d been looking for a socially conscious banking option for several years when Aspiration popped up. I am very satisfied, and they’ve provided more of what I was looking for than I imagined. I love the ease of moving money from my interest earning Save where I direct deposit everything to get the interest rate, then instantly transfer what I’m spending to the Spend so I can get cash back on my purchases. Yeah, cash back on my purchases. And I plant trees. They are my banking heaven.
My husband ask me to check this company out this morning, we are both on disability could use any help stretching our income, after reviewing bbb also a diff site for reviews.
We will Not be looking further at this company 😒 sadly to many rip off scams for ppl that could use help!