Aspiration review: Combating climate change one account at a time

Top-notch checking and savings from a socially conscious financial services company

Aspiration review

Sara Coleman

By

Sara Coleman

Sara Coleman

Insurance Expert

Sara Coleman is a personal finance writer at Policygenius covering brand reviews.

Published October 25, 2021|6 min read

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4.6 / 5

Aspiration is not your typical bank. Actually, it isn’t a bank at all. Aspiration is a fintech company offering spending and savings options focused on combating climate change and reducing the carbon footprint of its account holders. It's also one of our picks for the best banks and credit unions in 2021. All accounts are managed exclusively through an app or online, which is hardly a new concept. However, with features like planting a tree for every purchase you make, Aspiration is differentiating itself from traditional banks by delivering socially conscious methods for money management. With 62% of consumers now expecting companies to behave in a more sustainable, eco-friendly manner, is Aspiration the new banking standard?

Aspiration

OVERALL

Out of 5. See our Methodology section at the bottom of the page.

4.6

THE GOOD

    Socially conscious banking

    Up to 10% APY savings account

    55,000+ free ATM usage

    Pay only what you think is fair in fees

    Account perks like cash back and a Welcome Bonus

THE BAD

    Monthly charge to access all benefits

    Limited number of offerings

    No physical locations

THE BOTTOM LINE

Aspiration offers some of the best green money management options to not only support your spending and savings goals, but also your commitment to fighting climate change and aligning your social and sustainability values with your banking needs.

Savings APY

See our Methodology section at the bottom of the page for more details.

10.0

Offerings

See our Methodology section at the bottom of the page for more details.

10.0

Mobile App

See our Methodology section at the bottom of the page for more details.

8.0

Fees

See our Methodology section at the bottom of the page for more details.

10.0

Support

See our Methodology section at the bottom of the page for more details.

8.0

The good

Sustainable spending and saving

The mission of Aspiration is to do better for the wallet and the world. This includes a focus on fighting climate change by never using any deposits to fund fossil fuel exploration or production. The company estimates it has already divested at least $167 million in funds away from fossil fuels. Continuing with its sustainability initiatives, if you choose to round up each of your purchases to the nearest dollar, the money is used to plant a tree. Even the debit card is made from recycled plastic. Because of these initiatives and others, Aspiration estimates for every $1,000 an account holder transfers, it is equivalent to having the climate impact of driving 6,000 fewer miles by car, which may align more closely to your own values versus the profit-centric focus of traditional banks.

Very high savings rates

The Aspiration basic savings account offers up to a 3% annual percentage yield (APY), while the Aspiration Plus offers an impressive 5% APY for the first $10,000 in savings. To earn the 3% APY, or 5% with Aspiration Plus, on your first $10,000 in the Aspiration Save account, you are required to spend $1,000 or more with your Aspiration Spend account within the same month. If your savings account is greater than $10,000, then you will earn 0.10% APY on the amount over $10,000, but only if you are an Aspiration Plus account holder. 

“Pay what is fair”

The company further tries to set itself apart from other institutions by not charging separate fees for the basic Aspiration Spend account. Instead, cardholders are asked to pay what they think is fair for the service. Aspiration’s motto is “All Extra Services Provided at Cost,” which is why you will not incur additional charges such as wire transaction fees or monthly maintenance costs for the basic services. If you do decide to pay fees, Aspiration will donate 10% of the amount to charitable donations and causes.

Access to free ATMs

For those concerned about fees and locations of ATMs to access their own money, Aspiration allows account holders to use ATMs from Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Chase banks. This network accounts for over 55,000 ATM locations, and is available to each card holder for free as long as the ATM is in-network. 

Cool rewards

The Aspiration Conscience Coalition features a list of brands and companies focused on sustainability and fair employment practices. This list was compiled to encourage you to shop with companies which also support the same efforts. Each time you use your Aspiration debit card at one of the listed stores, you can earn up to 5% cash back. If you are enrolled in the Aspiration Plus program, the potential cash back jumps up to 10% on purchases. Another reward offered is a Welcome Bonus of up to $200 if you spend $1,000 in the first 60 days of opening an account.

Aspiration in the news

The bad 

Monthly fee to access all benefits

The Aspiration account, which is the basic Spend option, is available to almost anyone who meets the eligibility criteria and at no monthly cost. However, to access the full list of account benefits and perks, you need to enroll in the Aspiration Plus program, which is $5.99 per month when paid in an annual lump sum, or $7.99 if you pay monthly. Enrolling does provide additional benefits such as a higher 5% APY on $10,000 in savings, 10% cash back when purchasing from the Conscience Coalition, and purchase protection if an item is stolen within the first 90 days — but the monthly price tag may make some of these benefits out of reach. 

Reputation 

With celebrity endorsements and over four million account holders, Aspiration has certainly cemented its reputation as a legitimate cash-management option for environmentally conscious consumers. Although it is not a bank itself, Aspiration partners with several other banks which are FDIC-insured, giving you peace of mind that your deposits are eligible for insurance while doing good for the planet and further supporting its legitimacy. 

Since the company has only been around since 2013, it does make it challenging to find reputable third-party reviews from sources such as J.D. Power and the Better Business Bureau (BBB). While not officially accredited with the BBB, reviews are overall more positive with customers citing the fact they love making a difference with the planet while using the convenient features of the Aspiration app.

The app itself also earns high marks with an overall 4.1 out of 5-star rating on Android. Smartphone users like how easy it is to open and manage accounts with everything available at your fingertips. The complaints tend to center around customer service issues or when consumers are confused by specific policies of Aspiration, such as APY earnings or pending deposits.

Methodology

To compare Aspiration with other options and determine the best banks and credit unions of 2021, we collected quantitative data on more than 50 major U.S. financial institutions. Specifically, we looked at savings account APYs, product offerings, fees, mobile app satisfaction, and customer support. We rated each aspect on a scale from 1 to 5, then averaged the five scores into a single rating. Here’s a detailed breakdown of each scoring matrix.

Savings account APY

We rated the highest APY that each bank or credit union offers on a savings account (excluding accounts or rates with a minimum balance requirement greater than $1,000).

Rating

Best Savings APY

1

Less than 0.1%

2

0.10%-0.19%

3

0.20%-0.29%

4

0.30%-0.39%

5

0.40%+

Offerings

We counted how many product lines each institution offers, since many people enjoy the convenience of keeping multiple accounts at the same bank. We included deposit accounts (checking, savings, money market, certificates of deposit), credit cards, loans (personal, student, auto, home equity), mortgages and mortgage refinancing, retirement accounts, and investment accounts as distinct qualifying offerings.

Rating

Offerings

1

1 offering

2

2 offerings

3

3 offerings

4

4 offerings

5

5+ offerings

Mobile app satisfaction

Since mobile apps are increasingly becoming the primary way people manage their bank accounts, we consulted the J.D. Power 2021 U.S. Banking Mobile App Satisfaction Study. For any banks or credit unions that weren’t included in the study, we used mobile app customer ratings from the Google Play store.

Rating

J.D. Power Score

App Store Score

1

Less than 840

Less than 3.0

2

840-849

3.0-3.4

3

850-859

3.5-3.9

4

860-869

4.0-4.4

5

870+

4.5+

Fees

We consulted every bank’s fee schedule and terms and conditions to search for any of the following: monthly maintenance fee, overdraft fee, insufficient funds fee, debit card replacement fee, account closure fee, and stop payment order fee.

Rating

Qualifying Fees

1

4+ fees

2

3 fees

3

2 fees

4

1 fee

5

0 fees

Customer support

Since different people prefer different support options at different times, we counted how many customer support channels each bank offers, including telephone, email, online chat, mobile app, online forums, online learning center, and physical branches.

Rating

Support Channels

1

1 option

2

2 options

3

3 options

4

4 options

5

5+ options