Aspiration Review: Better Banking for All

Aspiration debit card

A few months ago, we gave you an inside look at our money funnel, a prioritized order in which we allocate our incoming dough. While we try not to tinker too much with our funnel, we’re always on the lookout for better places to park our money within our system. One of the most important pieces to our funnel is our checking account since it acts as a “loading dock” before we dispatch it off to one of our money-baby-making homes. (It kinda sounds like we’re running a small-scale drug running operation, but we just like pretending we do.)

Something we really, really like is when our money makes more money by just existing. Something we really, really don’t love is when banks sneak away our hard-earned cash through fees. Whenever we look into new alternatives for our money funnel, it’s an almost guaranteed non-starter if it charges fees to access our money (like ATM fees) or maintain an account (like maintenance fees). If it passes that test, then we move on to the fun stuff like interest rates, account ease of use, company values, etc. Cue Aspiration.

Aspiration logo

It’s not uncommon for us to get a few emails a week from different banks hawking their latest and greatest checking accounts. Usually it’s something that really isn’t worth the e-paper it’s emailed on (like a 0.02% interest rate increase), but not so when Aspiration reached out to us. For starters, their Summit Checking Account offers 1.00% APY, which is literally 100x better than one of our current “big bank” checking accounts, and better than most savings accounts out there. Add to that no service fees, no monthly minimums, free ATM withdrawals at any ATM in the world, plus a $10-minimum to open any account. Yes, please.

After nodding our head to all of the nitty gritty number details, then we started reading up on who these folks were. Selfishly, our primary concern is usually how it will affect our wallet. But if a company also has a social-good component (like Warby Parker or TOMS Shoes), then we’re that much more likely to give them our business. Aspiration lives by a “Do well, do good” motto. For every dollar they make, a dime goes to charities that bolster up economic opportunities for everyday Americans.

Aspiration also offers two investment products, another important piece of our funnel. Both funds are geared toward giving everyday investors access to a portfolio of funds that are historically only available to the Richie Riches (Macaulay Culkin’s finest performances to date). And as far as fees go, you “pay what is fair.” You choose what to pay them. Seriously, no hidden agendas, no gimmicks. They work off of tips alone and trust that if they do right by their customers, they’ll be rewarded accordingly. Cool.

Aspiration site

As far as trusting them with your money, the Summit Account is FDIC insured, they employ bank-level security to protect your account, and it was recently named the ‘Best Checking Account in America’ by Money Magazine and Aspiration rank’s in Fast Companies Top 100 in the Most Innovative, Finance, and Social Good categories.

There are a few things to consider before diving in head first. Aspiration is a completely online bank (sorry, brick and mortar fans) and currently doesn’t have a companion app for mobile banking (gasp!), but their team says iOS and Android apps are coming in the next few months. For now, you can use specific NYCE ATMs to deposit money or make transfers from another checking account — all free. And while they avoid passing almost all fees on to customers, you still can’t bounce a check or overdraw from your account. They do prevent ATM or debit card overdrafts by stopping the transaction in its tracks, and so long it’s just a slip up and not an abuse of the system, Aspiration is even flexible in refunding the overdraft fee. And if you’re the person in front of us at the grocery store who still writes checks, you deserve a fee anyway. Kidding, kinda.

The long and short of it is that Aspiration will put/keep more money in our pockets and appears to have a soul, which is surprisingly rare in today’s business world. We’ve gladly welcomed their Summit Checking Account to our money funnel. If you’re interested in doing the same, you can go here and join the waiting list by clicking “Secure Your Spot” in the upper right corner. The Aspiration team says most folks are only waiting about a week to receive their invite.

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  • Reply Jordan February 26, 2016 at 10:27 am

    A very interesting program! I’m excited to see how this does in the future. That interest rate sounds way too good to be true.

  • Reply Tessa February 26, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    Cooool!! Love this model. I actually joined Ally because of your recommendation a while back, so looks like I’ll be following you here too. 🙂

  • Reply Michelle March 23, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    I am also likely to join or support a business when there is a social component connected to the business model. I’m looking forward to hearing more about it. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Nia Johnson June 3, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    I’ve just recently opened my account with Aspiration with $15! I am excited to see this work.

    • Reply Linda Ceriello February 16, 2017 at 12:46 am

      Do you have any report on how it has been for you banking with Aspiration? I am thinking about switching and wanted to hear some more firsthand accounts. Thank you.

  • Reply Sherri Gerlach July 7, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    Thanks for the insight. I’m gonna give it a go too, because I’m tired of supporting banks that were behind the great recession and also are backing Big Oil.

  • Reply Brad August 17, 2016 at 10:59 am

    I’m reading up on this as a possibility to put a few dollars into an account and see if I can get a minor return on it. I don’t know much about it but like what I am reading. How does it work with putting money into the account though?

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