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Aspiration Bank Review (March 2020) – the leading social green bank?

Last update: Sat Feb 22 2020

Banks are the latest area of finance to take their business online. Aspiration Bank is one of these said banks that offer checking accounts (with interest) and even investments (much like a bricks and mortar bank!).

What is appealing about this bank is their promise to give back. Let’s take a deeper look at this innovative financial institution.


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What is a Socially Responsible Bank?

In short, it’s a financial institution that allows their clients to take control of their funds and to support a charity or cause that is of significant importance. The purpose of a business, organization and/or an institution is to make tons of cash – or is it?

As more and more companies are adopting the “socially responsible” way, the more donations and funds we see being put to good use. So how can an organization (and you) be socially responsible? Here are some examples.

B-Corporations

B-corps are for-profit businesses that commit to certain standards. They uphold their responsibility as fellow inhabitants of this planet and do their part in regards to their social and environmental practices. They are commended for their public transparency and are expected to balance their profit with purpose.

B-corp businesses aim to drive global change and rather than focusing on the dollar sign and benefits, they put all their attention on doing what’s good. You can refer to them as the superheroes of conglomerate businesses. With all their power, they choose to do good!

Fossil Free Funds

Websites that offer fossil free funds places popular mutual funds under the microscope. They analyze the environmental impact these funds have and give you a clearer picture on how your money is being put to use. Is your money being invested in companies with a high carbon footprint and are not so green?

With climate change and uncontrollable and fiery wildfires plaguing more than one continent, it’s important that our money is being put to good use and is invested in companies that are working towards a sustainable future.

Decarbonization

It’s in our hopes (and for our greater good) that companies will one day fully decarbonize. Since that dream may still be light years away, slow and steady steps now will yield the best results.

Many leading companies and organizations are now setting out to decarbonize their products along with their services all in an effort to fight climate change. A big first step is to reduce greenhouse gases. By creating low carbon products and services, these said companies will work to reduce emissions and be close to being completely low carbon in only 10 years time.

A quick and effective way for the world to decarbonize is to adopt other forms of power. Electricity, wind, solar, are among the most common alternatives. However, it’s easier said than done but improvements are being made every year.

The Aspiration Bank Review

Everything that has gone digital will most likely have a compatible app. Download the Aspiration Bank App to access your funds conveniently and have control of your money right at your fingertips.

With a people score and a planet score bar right at the top of the AIM (Aspiration Impact Management) page displaying the impact you are having on the earth with your spendings and investments. Who knew that even your purchasing habits can have such a ripple effect on the planet?

The app also designates AIM scores to businesses for you to clearly see if this company is literally worth your money. Aspiration Bank takes into consideration aspects like healthcare, salary, diversity among others to reach a conclusion on the people score. As for the planet score, metrics such as emissions, and energy efficiency are responsible for how high or low the numbers are.

It’s easy to use and well organized, the Aspiration Bank app lets you take control of your finances.

Aspiration Checking & Rates

So how does an online bank compare to your traditional financial institution?

For starters, they offer up to 1% APY interest for the Aspiration Spend and Save account. Which is quite a lot if you qualify for it. You can withdraw money 5 times a month at an ATM for FREE and you get your very own personal AIM score calculated for you.

Aside from that, you get cash back and bonus rewards for healthy spending. While you are waiting for your physical debit card to make its way to you, Aspiration Bank creates a digital one for you to use in the meantime.

You will not be supporting any fossil fuel projects through your funds and investments and you can choose your own monthly fees. Enjoy unlimited and immediate transactions between your Spend and Save accounts and get identify fraud reimbursement.

To further their (and your) love and protection of our planet, 10% of their earnings go to charity!

Other Features

What other features are given with an account from Aspiration Bank?

Aside from everything mentioned above, you also have cell phone protection insurance with the Spend and Save account.

With just the Save account however, you have a little less benefits but you still receive the same APY interest, you get to choose your monthly fee (one that you think is fair), and remain confident that none of your money will be funding fossil fuel projects.

As of 2020, the listed features on their website are:

  * FDIC insured with partner bank Radius bank
  * Cash back rewards on every purchase you make
  * Bonus rewards for spending at socially-conscious businesses
  * Get your AIM personal People/Planet impact score and see how you can shop with a conscience learn more
  * Get 5 free ATM withdrawals each month
  * Get a digital debit card the instant you open your account! Use it while your physical card comes by mail
  * Your deposits don't fund fossil fuel projects
  * Up to 1.00% APY interest on the entire balance in your Save account
  * Unlimited, immediate transfers between your Spend account and your Save account
  * You choose your own monthly fee
  * We commit to give 10% of our earnings to charity
  * Cell phone protection insurance
  * Identity fraud expense reimbursement

Saving: Free Aspiration Save Savings Account

These are the benefits they list:

* Up to 1.00% APY interest on the entire balance in your Save account
* Your deposits don't fund fossil fuel projects
* You choose your monthly fee
* We commit to donating 10% of earnings to charity

Our main critique of this save account is that they are missing any kind of sub-accounts or buckets as we're used to from Ally, Simple, N26 or most other modern accounts. They only allow you to have one savings account, with one pile of money. We assume the user is supposed to have a separate spreadsheet to know which dollar is saved for which purpose?

Beyond that, the account is excellent – great APY, no fossil fuel investments, and you can set it to free if you like (let's be honest – there shouldn't be a fee on these as they're making money on our deposit, which is all profit for them anyway).

There are absolutely no additional fees such as overdraft, debit card, or dormant account fees. Aspiration Bank is built on trust and trust only.

Investing: The Aspiration Redwood Fund

The Redwood Fund, Aspiration Bank’s investment services have a rigorous system that weeds out only companies that are optimized for growth and a sustainable environment.

As they so eloquently put, “our actions have consequences”, and that applies to purchasing, spending and investing habits too. The Redwood Project will help you build a lucrative profile while still honoring what’s important to you.

With fees as low as $10 to start up your Redwood account, sustainable investments are available to everyone! Redwood IRA has you covered for the latter half of your life with traditional IRAs and tax deferred growth.

Aspiration claims that this account makes investing easy with professionally managed funds that are 100% fossil fuel free or with fewer ups and downs.

Personally, we haven't tried this one out, as investing is a tricky one. A friend of ours used it however and saw significant growth throughout 2019, but not quite as much as an index fund (that would also finance fossil fuels, as mentioned above.)

From their website:

* $10.00 minimum opening deposit
* Open to new investors

redwood account

AIM Score / Carbon Neutral Driving Offsetting

When you buy gas with the Aspiration Bank card, the carbon output is automatically calculated and Aspiration Bank buys offsets to counter the environmental effects your car will have. No matter which kind of car you drive, work together with Aspiration Bank to counter climate change.

Security

With analog systems still being the most secure, just how safe is your money and your investments in this digital world?

They offer network security that is equipped with firewalls, controlled access and routing. All of your information will be protected and encrypted. By no means will Aspiration ever sell or lease your information to any third party.

You’re also protected by fraud security and alerts and multi-factor authentication. Getting into your account isn’t as easy as just inputting your password and username.

The Verdict

With all that said, what do we really think about Aspiration Bank?

Pros:

  • No monthly fees
  • No service fees (unless you deem otherwise)
  • Mobile app
  • High interest rate
  • All you need is $10 to start
  • No ATM fees
  • 10% of their profits are donated to charities
  • Socially responsible investments
  • AIM score to help you get a clear picture of your impact
  • Car offset
  • Phone insurance
  • Compatible with Apple and Google Pay among others

Cons:

  • Only one savings account
  • No physical branch
  • A bit more difficult to deposit large amounts of cash and checks

As you can see, the pros greatly outweigh the cons. Why not do your part for the world while spending and saving?

FAQ

Aspiration Bank Review 2020

Aspiration Bank App

They offer a high APY that’s competitive with local banks and your personal AIM score will help you make better decisions

Fossil Free Funds

Aspiration will make sure that your investments and funds only go towards companies with a low carbon footprint that consciously work towards a more sustainable future.

Green Bonds

Green as in good for the environment, the bonds offered by Aspiration are climate change, poverty, and environmentally focused.

Aspiration Bank Reviews

Aspiration Bank is the perfect choice for those who do not want the hassle of a physical branch. No one likes monthly fees and service fees and Aspiration Bank lets you hold the reigns on how much you contribute, even if that number is 0.

Even thought they don’t have a physical branch, you are still able to invest and save safely with the app’s calculated AIM score for you and their vetting of high carbon footprint companies that are not as environmentally conscious.

To further their mission to protect the planet, they donate 10% of their profits to charities and look out for you with the Redwood project, and even offer vehicle offsets.

Is Aspiration the Best Online Bank?

All of the perks we mentioned really catapult Aspiration to the front of the line in terms of online banks. If you are looking for up to 5% cash back on purchases and up to a 1% APY, working to be more environmentally conscious, and no fees, then yes, Aspiration is by far one of the best online banks.

What is a social bank?

A social bank (also known as a green bank or a sustainable bank) is a bank that does not invest your money into fossil fuels. At normal banks like Chase or JPMorgan, your money doesn't just sit there in your account. It gets lent out to businesses, and for banks, some of the most lucrative businesses to fund are fossil fuel funds. Social banks do not do this.

The crazy thing is, once traditional banks have made money with your savings, do they pass this on to you? No! You get a paltry 0.01% APY, when they're lending out your money at around 12%.

Social banks pass this on to you, and make sure your money stays in the right hands.

Credit unions are a great alternative to social banks, and often have very competitive rates. The downside to credit unions is it varies by county, and their digital presence has traditionally been lacking (but this varies wildly case by case).

Many banks that call themselves social banks or green banks have following credentials:

  • BCorp certification
  • Subscribes to sustainable management practices