What is Aspiration?
Aspiration is a US brokerage company founded in 2013 that provides financial services, including branchless banking and investment products. Its special characteristic is its focus on socially and environmentally conscious operations, supporting and rewarding businesses that meet these conditions, and not using client funds to finance fossil fuel projects. It had 1.5 million customers in mid-2019, and its investors include celebrities such as Leonardo di Caprio and Orlando Bloom.
Aspiration is not a bank, so it does not have a banking license, instead it is an SEC-registered broker-dealer, while deposits are FDIC-insured via Aspiration's partner banks.
Aspiration is a good choice if you are a US resident looking for an ethical bank that supports sustainable causes, and are OK with having only simple, limited banking services that are not very competitive compared to what most other neobanks offer.
Aspiration Review 2020
Aspiration pros and cons
- You set your own fee (can be $0)
- Socially conscious banking services – plant trees, buy carbon offsets, support sustainable business and charitable causes, no funding for fossil fuel projects with your money
- Free in-network ATM withdrawals
- Up to 3-5% cash back after purchases
- Only available to US residents
- Lengthy account opening process, $10 minimum deposit required
- Limited, not digitally friendly banking services (complicated person-to-person, wire payments)
Aspiration Review 2020
Account opening and maintenance fee
At Aspiration, account opening is free, while for maintaining your account, a "Pay What is Fair" principle is used. This means you decide how much you want to pay per month, within a range of $0-20. There is also a $10 minimum deposit required to open a checking account.
Getting an Aspiration bank card, including delivery, is free, as is getting a stolen or lost card replaced.
Aspiration does not charge a fee for international transactions with your Aspiration card, although you do have to pay the 1% foreign transaction fee charged by Mastercard. There is also a list of countries where you cannot use your card.
At Aspiration, withdrawals within the Allpoint ATM network (55,000+ ATMs) are free. For ATMs out of this network, as well as international ATMs, you will be charged the fee set by the ATM service provider.
Also, if you sign up for the Aspiration Plus premium service, you will be rebated one out-of-network (domesic or international) ATM fee per month. However, Aspiration does not reimburse third-party currency conversion fees, or the 1% foreign transaction fee charged by Mastercard.
There is a $500 daily limit on ATM withdrawals for the first 30 days after opening account, which increases to $1,000 afterward.
Electronic, i.e. Automated Clearing House (ACH) bank transfers from your Aspiration account are free. Outgoing wire transfers cost $4.50 within the US and $19.50 for international transactions, while there is a $2.06 fee for all incoming transactions. Note however that you cannot make an outgoing wire transfer in the first 3 months after opening your account.
Aspiration does not charge a fee when you deposit money to your account. However, the options are limited, as you cannot use a bank card or deposit cash, you can add funds only by electronic (ACH) transfer, direct deposits, mobile checks, or via third-party apps like PayPal and Venmo.
Aspiration Review 2020
Aspiration vs. Chime
|ATM withdrawal fees||Free within network, otherwise provider's fee applies||Free within network, $2.50 otherwise|
|International wire transfer fee||$19.50||n.a.|
|Interest paid on savings (APY)||0% (up to 1% only for premium clients)||0.25%|
Aspiration Review 2020
Aspiration account opening
Opening an Aspiration account is quite a complicated and lengthy process, taking several days to complete. It can be started online on the Aspiration website or via the app, and you should have your new Aspiration bank card in your hands in 7-10 days.
Aspiration is available only in the US, for citizens or permanent residents.
Aspiration account opening process
Opening an account at Aspiration, from submitting the first application until you can actually access your account and initiate transactions, takes several days. Here are the steps we went through to open an account:
- Provide your information (name, email address, Social Security Number, bank account number) either on the website or after downloading the app.
- To verify your bank account, Aspiration sends a small amount (a couple of cents) to the account, which takes about 2 days to arrive.
- You need to verify that you received the amount and transfer the $10 minimum deposit to your Aspiration account.
- Next, to verify your identity, you need to scan an ID document such as a driver's license or passport, take a photo of yourself, and send these to Aspiration. It may take another 1-2 days for Aspiration to review these.
- At this point, you may be flagged for some reason (we were), and asked to submit additional documentation, such as bank statements. This additional review can take another couple of days.
- After your verification process is complete and your minium deposit has arrived, you can start using your Aspiration account.
At Aspiration you can open your bank account only in USD. The connected Spend, Save and Investment accounts are also all available only in USD.
Is your money safe at Aspiration? Yes, it is safe. Even though Aspiration itself is not a bank and does not hold a banking license, your deposits are safe as the money is held at several partner banks, which are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
At the end of each day, the cash balances in the Spend and Save accounts are "swept up" to (distributed among) one or more of Aspiration's partner banks (Program Banks), for up to $246,500 per bank. At the time of writing, this means that up to $2.46 million of your deposits, including interest, are insured at Aspiration. Total coverage may change as Aspiration adds or removes partner banks, and you also have the option of excluding banks from your partner bank list.
The Aspiration Debit Card is issued by Coastal Community Bank, based in Washington State, while Aspiration will assign a specific Priority List of Banks to your account. Here is a list of Aspiration's current Program Banks, all FDIC members:
- Coastal Community Bank
- Ion Bank
- Bremer Bank, NA
- Bank of New Hampshire
- Manufacturers Bank
- C3Bank, NA
- The Freedom Bank of Virginia
- Bridgewater Bank
- Nano Banc
Aspiration cards overview
What kind of card does Aspiration provide? Aspiration cards are provided by Mastercard. There is only one kind of physical card, a debit card.
How long till I get my Aspiration card? It takes about 7-10 business days for your card to arrive at your home address after ordering. Once your card arrives, you can activate it through the Aspiration app, on the website, or by phone.
Does Aspiration offer a digital card? Yes! You can start using this digital card once your opening deposit becomes available, even before your physical card arrives. It has a different number than the physical debit card, but works the same way, and is tied to your Spend Account balance. You need to activate this feature within the app. You can also use the digital card any time you do not have your physical card with you.
What happens if my Aspiration card is lost or stolen? If your Aspiration card is lost or stolen, you can report it through the app or website, or by phone. It will be deactivated and a replacement debit card automatically sent to your registered address for free.
Can I use my Aspiration card abroad? Yes, you can use your Aspiration debit card outside the US, for payments and for withdrawing money from ATMs. However, you need to enable International Travel within Settings in your account by logging in on the website. You can also add your digital debit card to Apple, Samsung, or Google Pay for easy use. Note that Mastercard also charges 1% on all international transactions, while there is also a list of blocked countries where no transactions will work. If you are on the Aspiration Plus plan, you also get one international ATM fee reimbursement at a flat rate of $4. Aspiration does not reimburse third-party currency conversion fees, or the 1% Mastercard foreign transaction fee, however.
Aspiration Premium accounts
Aspiration offers a premium account, called Aspiration Plus. The fee for this service is $7 per month, or $69 per year.
The benefits of Aspiration Plus are:
- 10% cash back at selected partners
- 1 out-of-network ATM fee rebate per month
- up to 1% interest on first $10,000 in account (additional conditions apply)
- carbon offsets for all gas purchases through Planet Protection feature
- bank card made from recycled plastic
Aspiration top-up methods
At Aspiration, you can use the following methods to top up, i.e. deposit money to your account:
- Direct deposit from employer
- Electronic (ACH) bank transfer: You can deposit money to your Aspiration account by electronic (ACH) transfer from your home bank, which should take 3-4 business days to arrive. ACH transfers are fee-free, but there is a $1,000 daily limit.
- Wire transfer: This is a quicker way to deposit money, as it should arrive within 1 day, but there is a $2.06 fee for incoming domestic wire transfers.
- Mobile check deposit: You can use the app to deposit checks on your mobile, with a processing time of 1-2 days (there is a 5-day hold in the first 30 days).
- Cash: You cannot deposit cash directly, but Aspiration proposes the workaround of buying a money order with cash and depositing that through the mobile check deposit feature.
- Third-party apps like Venmo and PayPal.
Aspiration Review 2020
Aspiration banking features
Aspiration offers a limited selection of banking features:
- Your savings are stored separately in your Savings Account for easier overview and management.
- Joint accounts are available.
- You can set up Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay.
- You can also link your account to third-party apps like PayPal, Venmo, Mint, Square Cash, Uber, Lyft, Acorns and Zelle.
Aspiration however lacks many features that some of its competitors offer:
- You cannot see your spending categorized by the type of transaction (e.g. shopping, restaurants).
- You cannot earn interest on your savings under the normal plan, only if you are in the premium Aspiration Plus plan.
- You cannot set monthly budgets or spending goals.
- You cannot send money to other Aspiration users instantly and for free. It is possible to pay friends using Aspiration ("Payments"), but it is extremely cumbersome, slow, and not at all up to the requirements of the digital age – the recipient will be mailed a paper check, which will arrive in 5-7 business days. Sending a wire transfer is similarly complicated, as you have to call Aspiration by phone and get an agent to assist you.
- You cannot send money requests to friends or contacts, or use the app to split bills.
- There is a smart savings feature where your spending will be rounded up to the nearest dollar, but the difference does not go to your savings, instead it will be transferred to a separate Aspiration account and go toward planting a tree (Plant Your Change service).
- Overdrafts are not possible.
- 3D Secure online payments are not supported.
Aspiration Review 2020
Aspiration additional features
You can use Aspiration through a mobile app or on a desktop computer through the Aspiration website.
The main draw of Aspiration is its mission to be an "ethical bank," meaning that it is socially and environmentally conscious in its operations and services, and also offers its customers various opportunities to bank in a more sustainable way and support charitable non-profit organizations. Here is a list of ways how Aspiration focuses on "doing well while doing good":
- Up to 3-5% extra cash back: Aspiration offers a standard 0.05% cash back on all purchases. The bank also uses an Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM) score, with which it has rated thousands of companies based on their social and environmental impact — for those with the highest AIM scores, you get 0.5% cash back. To get extra rewards, you can use your Aspiration card at members of the bank's "Conscience Coalition," a select group of high-AIM score partners where you get 3-5% cash back on all purchases, or 10% if you are enrolled in Aspiration Plus.
- Based on your bank card use, you can see your own Sustainability Score to see the impact you’re making on the planet.
- Carbon offset gas purchases: By signing up for Planet Protection (available only if you upgrade to Aspiration Plus), Aspiration will automatically offset the climate-changing carbon dioxide from every gallon of gas you purchase.
- No fossil fuel funding: Aspiration won't use your savings to fund fossil fuel projects.
- 10% to charity: Through “Dimes Worth of Difference,” Aspiration commits to donating 10% of its earnings to charitable activities.
- Plant Your Change: With this optional feature, you allow Aspiration to round up all your purchases to the nearest dollar, and the difference will go toward planting new trees. You get cash rewards after reaching certain milestones (e.g. $5 dollars after 30 trees planted, $10 after 100).
- Donations: Aspiration offers a select list of vetted non-profit organizations on its website, categorized by seven causes, that you can easily give charitable donations to online.
You can also open an investment account at Aspiration, through which you can invest in its Aspiration Redwood Fund, an ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) fund that does not invest in fossil fuels or firearms companies. Aspiration also offers retirement accounts (IRAs).
You can get free cell phone protection insurance if you pay your monthly mobile bill with your physical Aspiration debit card.
Aspiration customers also get identity fraud expense reimbursement of up to $1,000 to cover losses resulting from identity fraud.
Aspiration does not have any additional features like virtual cards or cryptocurrency trading, and travel insurance or loans are also not available directly via the app.
Aspiration Review 2020
Aspiration customer service
You can contact Aspiration via:
- Phone: We connected very quickly to a representative, who gave helpful and relevant answers.
- Email: We received answers with varied response times, sometimes within 10 minutes but other times only after a day. The answers were useful for the most part. ;
Customer service is not available 24/7.