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Aspiration

Make sure your deposits don't fund fossil fuel companies and plant a tree with each debit card purchase.

Aspiration is a fast-growing online-only bank for the environmentally conscious. With no mandatory fees and an attractive interest rate, it's easy to see why so many people have flocked to the bank—but there are some important caveats to keep in mind.

Let's take a look at Aspiration's account features, along with some reasons you may want to sign up or pass.

Who is Aspiration?


Andrei Cherny founded Aspiration in 2013 as a fintech B Corp with a social and environmental focus. Before founding the business, Mr. Cherney worked for Bill Clinton and Al Gore on climate issues.

The company offers checking and savings accounts, investment accounts, and a credit card. You can pay any amount you want (including $0) for the basic Aspiration account, but the Aspiration Plus account costs $5.99 annually ($71.88) or $7.99 monthly. Aspiration Plus comes with higher rewards and other perks.

The checking and savings account features:

  • Unlimited free withdrawals at over 55,000 ATMs on the Allpoint Network.
  • 3% to 10% cashback on sustainable purchases at Conscious Coalition businesses.
  • Option to plant a tree by rounding up each debit card purchase to the nearest dollar.
  • FDIC insurance for up to $250,000.
  • Guarantees that your deposits will not fund oil or coal projects.
  • Option to get paid your salary up to two days early.
  • An Impact Management score evaluating your spending habits.
  • A highly-rated and easy-to-use mobile app.

Why you might sign up


Aspiration's main claim to fame is that it plants a tree by rounding up each debit card purchase to the nearest dollar. Unlike buying carbon offsets, trees make an ongoing climate impact by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over their lifespan. In addition, the company has partnered with a reputable NGO to avoid caveats (see more below).

If you're an Aspiration Plus member, you can also automatically offset the impact of driving your car with Planet Protection. The company tracks your purchases at gas stations, estimates how much gas you purchased, calculates the CO2 from burning that gas, and purchases carbon offsets. It's a convenient way to mitigate the impact of your daily commute.

Aspiration also offers up to 5% APY on savings accounts and up to 10% cashback from Conscious Coalition purchases. If you shop at Rumpl, Toms, BURST, Blue Apron, Cloud Paper, or other businesses on the list, you could spend enough to trigger the 5% APY while getting 10% cashback on your purchases—a win-win scenario.

Why you might pass


Aspiration makes it clear that your deposits won't fund fossil fuel exploration or production. While defunding fossil fuel projects could make them less viable, the deposits don't explicitly support renewable energy projects. Instead, they are invested in companies that adhere to strict ESG standards—companies that might include names like Apple.

Tree planting also has a mixed record when it comes to fighting climate change. For example, Mexico launched a $3.4 billion tree-planting campaign that led to deforestation as farmers cleared forest before putting seedlings in the ground. That said, Aspiration works with a reputable NGO to avoid these kinds of mistakes.

Aside from its climate drawbacks, its above-average 3-5% interest rates require spending of $1,000 per month to kick in. The good news is that there are no debit card transaction requirements, so spending $1,000+ on a single transaction could be enough to realize the attractive rates (e.g., health insurance premiums, car loan payments, etc.).

The bottom line


Aspiration makes it easy to fight climate change while earning an attractive interest rate. That said, the bank's focus on investing deposits into ESG-friendly investments rather than alternative energy projects makes it less compelling than some alternatives. As a result, we give Aspiration four stars out of five for climate-friendly checking and savings.

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Dec 08, 2022

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Asset Class

Cash

Impact Focus

Renewable Energy

Tags

trees environment

Highlights

  • Deposits don't fund oil or coal projects.
  • Automatically offset the carbon dioxide from every gallon of gas you purchase with Aspiration Plus.
  • Plant a tree with every card swipe by rounding up your purchases to the nearest dollar.