Aspiration Bank – Save Money, Save the Planet

Aspiration Bank may be a good choice for customers who want the convenience of banking online, without the need to visit a branch. Aspiration combines investment and banking services with social responsibility.
Aspiration was launched in 2015 as a socially responsible banking partner. Their motto is “Do Well. Do Good.“.

What sets Aspiration apart is the belief that people are just as important as profits. In that regard, they make “elite” investments available to ordinary investors and have a company philosophy of treating customers like partners.

They offer investments centered on funds that invest in companies that operate in ways that are sustainable and environmentally friendly and that provide fair employee practices. Their position is that such businesses represent true long-term growth opportunities, more so than those that are driven primarily by profits.

They also enable you to direct 10% of your fees toward various charitable groups that work more directly in those areas.

But one of the most interesting features of the platform is that you have the ability to choose how much you want to pay in investment fees. Theoretically, you could pay zero. But Aspiration is betting you won’t make that choice. They believe you will determine that the services they provide justify a fee, as well as your interest in advancing sustainable causes.

Aspiration offers two main services:

  • Banking services: Aspiration offers a Spend & Save Account to easily save money or manage daily living expenses. The Spend account offers cash back, while the Save account offers a high interest rate. The minimum to open is just $10.
  • Investment services: Aspiration offers 2 specially-curated professionally managed mutual funds. It selects sustainable and low volatility investments to help you maximize your returns. It offers individual accounts and Traditional IRAs. The minimum to start is $10.

Aspiration Bank offers the following account types:

  • Summit Account (Checking Account)
  • Investing Accounts
  • Retirement Accounts

Summit Account

The Aspiration Bank Summit Account is an interest-bearing checking account that you can open with as little as $10. The account earns an APY of one percent, which according to the bank’s website, is up to 100 times better than the interest rate offered at big banks.

 Aside from earning interest on deposits, the Summit Account offers another benefit through its fee structure.
 With this account, you pay no:
  • Minimum balance fees
  • Monthly service fees
  • Overdraft fees
  • Stop payment fees
  • Foreign ATM fees
 With a Summit Account, you can access your money from any ATM in the world fee-free. Aspiration Bank reimburses you for any foreign ATM fees or surcharges you pay, either at a machine in the U.S. or overseas. That sets it apart from other banks that offer ATM fee reimbursement but only up to a limited amount each month.

Aspiration Bank does charge a fee for incoming and outgoing wire transfers. But, those fees are a bargain at $0.82 each.

 You have the option of paying more for extra banking services — but only if you want to. Aspiration gives you the ability to pay fees, up to the amount you think is fair, even if that’s zero dollars.
 You can open an individual or joint account and Summit Accounts are FDIC-insured, up to $250,000. In addition to accessing your account at the ATM using your debit card, you can also check your balance, schedule transfers or make bill payments with the Aspiration Bank mobile app for iOS and Android.
 Other account perks include:
  • Identity fraud expense reimbursement in case your account is ever hacked
  • Cell phone protection insurance
  • Personalized Sustainability Scores, which let you see the impact you’re making socially and environmentally, based on how and where you spend

Investing Accounts

Aspiration Bank also offers two investment options if you’re interested in potentially earning a higher return than the Summit Account offers. Both are sustainable mutual funds that include a collection of stocks and bonds that are 100 percent fossil fuel-free. These are professionally managed accounts, which means you have the benefit and expertise of a knowledgeable investment team.

Redwood Fund (Ticker symbol: REDWX)
 The Redwood Fund includes a mix of companies that adopt sustainable practices with regard to social issues, governance and the environment. That includes increasing workplace diversity, focusing on green initiatives to reduce their carbon footprint and supporting human rights.
 The fund is diversified across different sectors, including financials, information technology and health care. It takes just $10 to make an initial investment in the Redwood Fund and you pay no:
  • Front load fees
  • Back load fees
  • Per transaction fees
  • Performance fees
 There is an annual fund operating expense fee of 0.5 percent of assets, which is a bit higher than what you may find with other investment accounts.
Flagship Fund (Ticker symbol: ASPFX)
 The Flagship Fund is a little different than the Redwood Fund. Instead of focusing exclusively on socially responsible investing, this fund is designed for investors who are looking for minimal volatility. In other words, it’s designed to ride out the high and low points of the market.
 You can invest in the Flagship Fund with as little as $10. The fund’s investments span a wide range of asset classes, including managed futures, options, bonds, and equities. It’s simplified diversification in a fund package that’s intended to help investors manage risk appropriately.
 Similar to the Redwood Fund, you pay no:
  • Front load fees
  • Back load fees
  • Per transaction fees
  • Performance fees
  • Redemption fees
 Once again, the 0.5 percent operating expense fee applies.
These are the advantages that we found using Aspiration:
  • Only $10 to open an account. Many big banks require you to have a large opening balance. Aspiration only requires $10 to open the Spend & Save Account, and there is no monthly balance requirement.
  • Competitive interest rate. Aspiration offers a very competitive interest rate on Save balances. The APY is in line with those offered by top online banks.
  • No ATM fees worldwide. Aspiration never charges you ATM fees, and will even reimburse fees charged by 3rd parties. However, for ATMs overseas, there will be a 1% foreign transaction fee that cannot be waived.
  • Pay what you feel is fair. They put you in charge of the service fee, even if it means $0. They feel that trust works both ways, so they let you be in the driver’s seat. You can change the amount you pay as often as you want too.
  • 10% is donated to charities. Aspiration commits to donate 10% of their earnings to charity. You can also make a donation yourself through their online giving platform. The charity categories include poverty, water, education, environment, health, and human rights. You can decide which cause you want to donate to, or to all of them.
  • Link to a variety of third-party apps. You can link Aspiration to apps like Mint, PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay. You can link the external accounts just like you would any checking account.
  • Socially-responsible investments. Aspiration’s platform offers a socially responsible investment fund. Requiring only $10 to start, this opens up socially-responsible investing to everyone, instead of only to the wealthy.
  • Charity donations for referrals. Every time you refer someone to Aspiration, and they sign up for an account, Aspiration will donate $25 to your charity of choice. They will also donate $25 to your friend’s charity of choice once their account is open and in good standing for at least 10 days.
  • Aspiration Impact Measurement score. This tells you how your own spending habits affect the environment. Aspiration bases your score on the impact the businesses you spend your money on have on the environment and the people.

 

Opening an Account

Getting started with Aspiration is straightforward. You begin by providing your email address and a password. Then you’ll be given the option to open one of the investment accounts, a Spend and Save account or just a Save account. Spend and Save is presented as the “recommended” option.

Then you’ll be asked to provide some basic identifying information, including employment details and your level of investing experience.

To fund an account, you’ll be asked to link it to an existing bank account to allow for an electronic funds transfer. The entire process should take about five minutes.

 

 

The company is unique in the marketplace and offers a way to save and invest while possibly supporting causes that are important to you. 

Aspiration may not be for everyone; you may not personally support the same causes as the company, or you may prefer to be socially conscious in your own way. 

As a financial institution, it’s products are competitive compared to most banks. You can potentially use Aspiration as your only bank, though some might find the offerings too limited. 

Have you opened an account with Aspiration? 

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