Aspiration Review: A Financial Institution That Gives Back

Learn what makes Aspiration stand out from the rest.
Aspiration Review: A Financial Institution That Gives Back
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Aspiration might be one of the smaller financial institutions in the U.S., but it prides itself on its ability to make financial services accessible through its community-like approach, even without a single physical bank branch. Based in Los Angeles, Aspiration can compete with even the banks with no ATM fees, and its high APYs continue to attract customers who no longer want high-fee, low-rate accounts from traditional banks.

Check out which financial services this financial institution has to offer in this Aspiration account review so you can better decide if it’s right for you.

Aspiration Review: A Financial Institution That Gives Back

Only one Aspiration account is available, a cash management account that combines features of both a checking account and a savings account. But what Aspiration lacks in products, it makes up for with charitable donations and its investing options. For instance, Aspiration is connected to multiple charities and commits to donate 10 cents of every dollar of its earnings back into the community. Also, through Aspiration’s “Pay What Is Fair” program, the customer sets their own fee rate, even if it’s $0, and Aspiration donates 10 percent of that amount to various charities. Aspiration’s high interest rates also make it a force to be reckoned with in the financial industry.

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Aspiration Products and Services

Unlike online banks such as Discover or Ally, Aspiration has a limited number of financial products and services. But Aspiration’s cash management account has been praised for its higher annual percentage yield, even when compared with online-only banks and banks with no monthly fees.

Here’s an overview of the Aspiration Spend & Save account:

Aspiration Spend & Save Account 
Minimum to openMonthly feeFeaturesAdditional perks
$10$0 monthly fee* (option to choose own fee)Earn up to a 2.00% APY, free global ATM transactions, mobile deposits, cell phone protection insurance10% of the fee you choose to pay goes to charity

Aspiration Spend & Save Account Overview

The Aspiration Spend & Save Account is a cash management account that offers up to 2.00% APY and the deposits are FDIC-insured up to $250,000 per depositor by being swept to FDIC Member institutions. For details, see their FAQ and visit https://www.fdic.gov. Formerly known as the Aspiration Summit account, the Spend & Save account offers the following key features:

  • $10 minimum deposit
  • No monthly service fees
  • High APY of up to 2.00%
  • No ATM fees, including fee-free ATM withdrawals worldwide
  • Free cell phone damage insurance
  • Mobile check deposit
  • No overdraft fee

With the Aspiration Spend & Save Account, you don’t earn any interest if you don’t meet certain qualifications. Specifically, you must make a deposit of at least $1 monthly, or your balance must reach $10,000 at least one time per month. But that rate jumps to 2.00% APY if you meet the requirements. That’s up to 200 times the interest rate provided on checking accounts at bigger banks and 20 times the national average APY, which was 0.10 percent as of March 4, 2019. With its higher interest rate, Aspiration can compete with the best checking account interest rates in the country.

Technically, the Aspiration Spend & Save account has two separate components, Aspiration Spend and Aspiration Save. The Aspiration Spend portion allows you to make debit card purchases, while the Aspiration Save account pays interest on your funds until they are used for purchases. However, Aspiration packages these two types of accounts as a single cash management account. This means that you are able to make unlimited, immediate transfers between the Aspiration Spend and Aspiration Save components, effectively making them operate as a single unit.

Aspiration Offers Global ATM Access With No ATM Fees

Aspiration allows global ATM withdrawals with no fees. Any fees charged by other institutions are reimbursed, with no cap, across any ATM network. However, Mastercard charges a 1 percent currency conversion fee for international ATM withdrawals, which is not reimbursed.

Account Fee Structure & Charitable Causes

Under its unique “Pay What Is Fair” system, Aspiration allows customers to choose how much they want to pay as a monthly fee. You can change this amount at any time, as often as you would like, on Aspiration’s website. You can even choose $0.

While it might seem as if every customer would automatically choose to pay nothing at all, the philosophy behind Aspiration as a whole is to give back to the world and promote ethical banking. Thus, it commits to donating 10 percent of all earnings to charity. Customers can also use the Aspiration giving platform to donate to one of seven charitable causes. The options available for customers to choose from are poverty, water, education, environment, health, human rights and the Aspiration Opportunity Fund, which provides mentorship and microloans to Americans in need.

Aspiration Investment Funds

Not all financial institutions offer an investment account, but you can take advantage of two types of mutual funds at Aspiration:

  • Redwood Fund
  • Flagship Fund

The Redwood Fund is based on sustainable investing, which promotes investing in socially responsible ways to generate returns. The Flagship Fund aims for long-term growth with minimal volatility.

Here are some of the highlights from Aspiration’s mutual funds:

  • Two investing funds
  • $10 minimum opening deposit
  • Redwood is a fossil fuel-free fund
  • Open to new investors

Aspiration Redwood Fund

The Redwood Fund is a mutual fund that includes investment in sustainable companies. The majority of the fund’s money currently goes toward investing in information technology and financial companies, although this can change at any time. The Redwood Fund is managed by UBS Asset Management, one of the largest asset managers in the world, according to Aspiration’s website.

Aspiration Flagship Fund

This Flagship fund is Aspiration’s other mutual fund and is categorized by low-volatility investing. It requires a $10 investment to get started and is open to all Aspiration customers. The primary objective of the Flagship Fund is to grow your investment over the long term while attempting to weather the unpredictability of the stock market.

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Aspiration IRAs

The Redwood and Flagship mutual funds also serve as Aspiration’s two traditional retirement accounts. Here are the key features of both IRAs from Aspiration.

Aspiration Redwood IRA

Because the Redwood IRA account is interconnected with the Redwood mutual fund, the IRA is also based on sustainable investing. With the Redwood IRA, you can invest in companies that value the environment and their employees.

Aspiration Flagship IRA

Like the Flagship Fund, the Flagship IRA is characterized by its low-volatility investing. In fact, the goal of this IRA is to invest with steady growth and less unpredictability.

  • Traditional IRA
  • Tax-deferred growth
  • $10 minimum opening deposit

How to Open an Aspiration Spend & Save Account

As an online cash management account, the Aspiration Spend & Save account must be opened online through Aspiration’s website. The process itself is easy and straightforward:

  1. Enter your email address.
  2. Choose a password.
  3. Verify your email via the confirmation link/code sent to your email address.
  4. Provide personal information, such as your name, date of birth, and Social Security number.
  5. Provide contact information.
  6. Give information on your employment and finances.
  7. Relate your investment experience.
  8. Fund your account, and choose your monthly fee.

The step-by-step process is easy to follow online and takes about five minutes from start to finish.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Aspiration

Although Aspiration charges only a limited amount of fees, it also is limited in its product offerings. Get a better idea of whether Aspiration is right for you by reviewing its advantages and disadvantages.

Pros of Aspiration

The socially conscious financial style and lack of general fees for its account help make Aspiration stand out amongst its competitors. Here are some of the major benefits of opening an account with Aspiration:

  • No monthly service fees
  • No ATM fees — domestic or international
  • Option to invest in sustainable companies through Redwood and Flagship funds
  • Tax-deductible donations to seven charitable causes
  • Choose your own amount for select fees through the “Pay What Is Fair” program

Cons of Aspiration

The primary drawback of Aspiration is the limited number of accounts offered; however, this disadvantage is minimized because the Spend & Save account combines the features of many types of accounts in a single package.

Who Should Open an Account With Aspiration?

Aspiration’s emphasis on social responsibility makes it a great financial institution for anyone looking to not only make some money but also make an impact. Additionally, for people who prefer a simple, online-only account with no ATM fees and a host of other features, Aspiration could be an ideal financial institution.

Taylor Bell contributed to the reporting for this article.

About the Author

After earning a B.A. in English with a Specialization in Business from UCLA, John Csiszar worked in the financial services industry as a registered representative for 18 years. Along the way, Csiszar earned both Certified Financial Planner and Registered Investment Adviser designations, in addition to being licensed as a life agent, while working for both a major Wall Street wirehouse and for his own investment advisory firm. During his time as an advisor, Csiszar managed over $100 million in client assets while providing individualized investment plans for hundreds of clients.