Aspiration Bank Review: Open a Green Bank Account

Aspiration is an innovative online bank that lets you make greener choices with your checking and savings accounts. If you are looking for a socially responsible, fossil free bank, it should be one of your top choices. Read the review of Aspiration to learn more.

SustainFi   Updated April 1st, 2022

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Rating: Excellent (5.0 / 5)

Pros

  • Strong commitment to socially responsible banking
  • High-yielding savings account (earn up to 5% APY)
  • Carbon-neutral credit card
  • Great app
  • A mutual fund that doesn’t invest in fossil fuels
  • A personal impact score based on your spending
  • Aspiration donates 10% of every $1 in fees
  • Planet Protection option: automatic offsetting of carbon emissions for each gallon of gas you purchase
  • Cash back on Conscience Coalition (includes TOMS, Warby Parker, and Blue Apron) purchases: 3-5% for basic accounts, up to 10% for Plus accounts
  • “Plant your change” opt-in program rounds up your spending to plant trees
  • No overdraft fees

Cons

  • Must be an Aspiration Plus customer to receive 5% APY
  • APY is reduced on balances over $10,000
  • Must spend $1,000/month to receive a higher APY
  • No branches
  • No cash deposits

Summary

CredentialsB Corp
Impact areasClimate change
Minimum deposit$10
Account maintenance fees• Aspiration account: pay what you want
• Aspiration Plus account: $7.99/month ($5.99/month if you pay upfront for the year)
APY• 3-5% on the first $10,000 if you spend $1,000/month
• Up to 0.10% on balances over $10,000
ATMs• 55,000 free in-network ATMs nationwide
• 1 free out-of-network ATM withdrawal per month for Plus accounts
AppHighly rated app
Accounts offered• Checking and savings accounts
• Taxable investment accounts
• IRAs
• Credit card
LocationsOnline-only

What is Aspiration?

Founded by Andrei Cherny in 2013, Aspiration is a fintech company with social and environmental goals. Before Aspiration, Cherny worked on climate issues for Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

Aspiration’s mission is to help customers “make money while making the world a better place.” It’s the only financial institution that lets you pay what you think is right for basic checking and savings account services. Aspiration also donates 10% of fees to nonprofits. And you can be sure that none of your money goes to fund fossil fuel projects.

Aspiration offers checking and savings accounts, IRAs, investment accounts, a credit card, and a fossil free mutual fund.

But it’s the cool extras that make Aspiration shine. As an Aspiration customer, you get a sustainability score for your spending habits, cash back when you spend at sustainable businesses like TOMS or Reformation, and carbon offsets when you buy gas. They even let you plant trees by rounding your change to the nearest dollar.

Aspiration Spend and Save accounts (checking and savings accounts)

The Aspiration Spend and Save account is a cash management account designed to replace your traditional checking and savings accounts. Prior to 2019, this account was called Aspiration Summit. The money you spend earns cash back of up to 10%, and deposits in your savings account earn interest of up to 5%. The minimum deposit for opening a Spend and Save account is only $10.

The Spend & Save accounts offer:

  • Unlimited free withdrawals at over 55,000 ATMs nationwide through the Allpoint network
  • Cash back rewards on sustainable purchases
  • FDIC insurance for up to $250,000
  • Guarantees that your deposits will not fund oil or coal exploration or production
  • Option to plant a tree with the roundup of your spending to the nearest whole dollar
  • Aspiration Impact Management, a personal impact score for your spending 
  • The option to get paid your salary up to two days early
  • A free first set of checks linked to the Spend account
  • A highly-rated mobile app

Accounts come with a debit card – a Mastercard issued by Coastal Community Bank.

Although the ATM network is quite large, Aspiration Plus members get one out-of-network fee reimbursement per month. Note that Aspiration doesn’t let you use your debit card when traveling abroad in several countries.

Aspiration account maintenance fees

You can choose between Aspiration, the basic account, and Aspiration Plus. You can pay any amount you want (“Pay What is Fair”) for the basic account (even $0), and Aspiration Plus costs between $5.99 and $7.99 (the lower amount if you pay upfront for the year).

Apparently, most people can’t bring themselves to pay $0 because they feel guilty.

AspirationAspiration Plus
Account feePay what is fair$7.99 / month ($5.99 / month if you pay annually)
Cash back on Conscience Coalition purchases3-5%10%
APY3% on the first $10,000 (must spend $1,000/month), then 0.0%5% APY on the first $10,000 (assuming you spend $1,000 / month, otherwise 0.25%), then 0.10% APY
Out-of-network ATM reimbursementNone1 / month
Carbon offsets for gas purchases (Planet Protection)Included
Personal Impact Score (AIM)IncludedIncluded

Aspiration doesn’t charge overdraft fees (they would decline the transaction instead).

Aspiration savings account interest

Aspiration savings accounts get a 3.0% APY (5.0% APY for Aspiration Plus) on the first $10,000 if you spend $1,000 in a month. Interest gets less attractive – none for standard accounts, 0.10% for Aspiration Plus – on deposits over $10,000.

AspirationAspiration Plus
Spend < $1,000 per monthNone0.25% APY
Spend > $1,000 per month 3.00% APY on the first $10,000
None after that
5.00% APY on the first $10,000
0.10% APY after that

Checks

Personal checks are available. The first 25 paper checks you order are free.

Although Aspiration doesn’t accept cash deposits, you can still deposit a mobile check.

Aspiration Impact Management (AIM) 

Aspiration founder Andrei Cherny called the AIM score a “Fitbit for sustainability.” Aspiration tallies up your purchases and shows you a personalized sustainability score based on where you shop. The scores update in real-time and are available within the mobile app. 

To come up with AIM scores, Aspiration uses data to rate companies on social and environmental metrics like employee pay, workforce diversity, greenhouse gas emissions, and renewable energy use. The data comes from environmental, social, and governance (ESG) data providers, such as HIP Investor, Insight360, and others. Aspiration uses over 75,000 data points, though they have not disclosed exactly how the proprietary algorithm works.

Local businesses that don’t have public data are invited to submit that information to Aspiration.

Aspiration cash back rewards

Aspiration lets you earn cash back rewards when you shop at businesses that are part of the Conscience Coalition, a network of purpose-driven companies.

When you shop at businesses with the highest AIM scores, you get 0.5% cash back. These businesses currently include:

  • AT&T
  • Allstate
  • Anthem
  • CVS
  • Cricket Wireless
  • DirecTV
  • Disney
  • Drugstore.com
  • Duane Reade
  • eBay
  • Esurance
  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • Skype
  • USA Drug
  • Verizon
  • Walgreen’s
  • Xbox
  • YouTube

According to Aspiration, the list of companies with the highest AIM scores can change at any time.

If you shop with Conscience Coalition members, you can earn up to 10% cash back. The coalition has the following members:

  • Arcadia Power
  • Alltrue
  • Blue Apron
  • Burst
  • Cariuma
  • Causebox
  • Cloud Paper
  • Dropps
  • FEED Projects
  • For Days
  • Girlfriend Collective
  • Goodwings
  • Imperfect Foods
  • Known Supply
  • LOLA
  • MiiR
  • Parachute Home
  • Reformation
  • Rumpl
  • Seatopia
  • Soapbox
  • This Bar Saves Lives
  • TOMS
  • Tony’s Chocolonely
  • United By Blue
  • Warby Parker

If you are enrolled in Aspiration Plus, you earn 10% cash back on all Conscience Coalition purchases. If you are not, you earn between 3% and 5%, depending on the merchant. The merchants are mostly trendy consumer startups.

5% cash back (if you are not enrolled in Aspiration Plus, 10% if you are):

  • Reformation
  • Warby Parker
  • United By Blue
  • Parachute Home
  • Causebox
  • Cariuma
  • Cloud Paper
  • LOLA
  • Goodwings
  • Burst
  • MiiR
  • For Days
  • Rumpl
  • Seatopia

4% cash back (if you are not enrolled in Aspiration Plus, 10% if you are ):

  • TOMS                           
  • Known Supply
  • Soapbox

3% cash back (if you are not enrolled in Aspiration Plus, 10% if you are ):

  • Arcadia Power
  • Feed Projects
  • This Bar Saves Lives
  • Blue Apron
  • Girlfriend Collective
  • Imperfect Foods
  • Dropps
  • Tony’s Chocolonely

However, the Aspiration Zero credit card offers up to 1.0% cash back on any purchases, not just the Conscience Coalition.

Planet Protection

Aspiration Plus accounts come with the Planet Protection feature, which offsets your car’s carbon emissions. To determine the required offset, Aspiration tracks your gas purchases and estimates how many gallons you’ve purchased using the national average gas price. Then they use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data to calculate the amount of carbon you’ve emitted and purchase offsets for the required amount. Aspiration is currently buying carbon credits from Cool Effect and 3Degrees. Carbon credits are extinguished after they are bought. 

Plant Your Change

The Plant Your Change feature is available to both Aspiration and Aspiration Plus customers. They even let you opt in by linking a credit or debit card from another bank. Once you opt in, each purchase you make is rounded up to the nearest dollar. The spare change goes to planting trees in partnership with Eden Reforestation Projects

Aspiration lets you know how many trees are planted with your spare change. They also let you earn cash rewards if you reach tree-planting milestones while spending with your Aspiration debit card:

  • 30 trees planted = $5 reward
  • 100 trees planted = $10 reward ($15 cumulative)
  • 500 trees planted = $25 reward ($40 cumulative)
  • 1,000 trees planted = $50 reward ($90 cumulative)
  • 2,500 trees planted = $100 reward ($190 cumulative)
  • 5,000 trees planted = $200 reward ($390 cumulative)

The maximum cumulative payment per customer is $390.

Investing with Aspiration: Aspiration Redwood Fund (REDWX)

  • Date launched: 2015
  • Assets under management: $150 million
  • Fee: 0.50%
  • Minimum investment: $10

Aspiration also lets you invest through their fossil free mutual fund, the Aspiration Redwood Fund (REDWX). It is available both through a taxable investment account and a tax-advantaged IRA. The fund’s day-to-day management and stock selection are outsourced to a team from the investment bank UBS.

REDWX Holdings. Launched in November 2015, the Redwood Fund is an actively managed mutual fund that invests in large-cap U.S. stocks. As of April 2022, the fund had 49 holdings, mostly in technology, financial services, and healthcare stocks. As advertised, the Redwood Fund has zero exposure to fossil fuels and a rare A rating from Fossil Free Funds. The fund also has high ratings from ESG rating agencies Sustainalytics (part of Morningstar) and MSCI.

REDWX Fees. The fund’s fee – 0.50% – is reasonable for an actively managed mutual fund (though higher than for most environmental, social, and governance ETFs). The $10 minimum investment is much lower than the $2,500 many mutual funds require.

Should you buy REDWX? The fund owns only around 50 stocks and has a newish management team, so we do not recommend putting all your IRA or savings in it. A balanced portfolio also needs to include bonds and possibly other asset classes like international equities.

🔔 Check out our review of the Redwood Fund.

Aspiration IRA

Aspiration offers a traditional IRA that lets you invest in the Redwood Fund. They support rollovers and require a $10 opening deposit. Roth IRAs are currently not supported. There is a $15 annual maintenance fee charged by the custodian (UMB), not Aspiration.

Aspiration credit card   

Aspiration has just launched a carbon-neutral credit card, Aspiration Zero. The card is offering a $300 welcome bonus.

🔔 Read the review of Aspiration Zero.

Who owns Aspiration?

Founded in 2013 and launched to the public in 2015, Aspiration raised $250 million from over 40 investors. Aspiration investors include Alpha Edison, a Los Angeles venture capital firm, UBS O’Connor, DNS Capital, Radicle Impact, Sutter Rock, and Social Impact Finance. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio was one of the early backers.

Aspiration is reportedly looking to go public via a SPAC.

Is Aspiration safe? Are deposits FDIC-insured?

Yes. Though Aspiration is an SEC-registered broker-dealer, not a bank, Aspiration partners with several banks, such as the Coastal Community Bank, to ensure your deposits are FDIC-insured for up to $250,000.

As a broker-dealer, Aspiration is a member of FINRA/SIPC.

The Redwood Fund is a mutual fund, not a bank account. As with any investment, its value is not guaranteed, and any money invested in the Redwood Fund may lose value.

💰 Takeaway

If you care about the environment, it’s worth switching to a bank that won’t lend to companies that are harmful to the planet. We believe that Aspiration is one of the best ethical banking choices in the U.S.


🔔 Interested in other sustainable bank accounts? Check out our ESG banking guide.

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