Aspiration Spend & Save Account Review: Eco-Friendly Banking


Eco-conscious consumers know that trade-offs are a fact of life. Just about every purchase we make has a carbon footprint, as do activities as simple as flicking on the lights or turning on the air conditioner. 

The Aspiration Spend & Save account is designed for people eager to reduce their environmental impact while still earning a decent return on their purchases and savings. It’s one of the better high-yield savings and rewards checking accounts around, though there is a monthly cost to take full advantage of its benefits.

Aspiration Spend & Save has some important drawbacks, both on the environmental and financial fronts. So take some time to learn about its capabilities, upsides, and downsides before opening an account.

What Is Aspiration Spend & Save?

Aspiration Spend & Save is a checking and savings account package that pays interest on eligible balances and offers rewards on select debit card purchases. It has no required monthly maintenance fee, but some features aren’t available without a paid subscription to Aspiration Plus ($7.99 per month).

Aspiration Plus users can earn up to 3.00% APY on the first $10,000 in the account. Aspiration Standard users’ yield tops out at 1.00% APY, also on the first $10,000. Both plans require at least $500 in monthly debit card purchases to earn interest.

Aspiration offers several ways to reduce your carbon footprint, including the option to have Aspiration plant a tree for every debit card purchase and automatic carbon offsets for your driving.

What Sets Aspiration Spend & Save Apart?

Aspiration Spend & Save stands out from competing accounts for several reasons:

  • Up to 10% back on eligible debit card purchases. Aspiration rewards you for debit card purchases with brands in its Conscience Coalition, a group of eco- and climate-friendly brands like Warby Parker and Blue Apron. You can earn up to 5% as an Aspiration Standard member and up to 10% with Aspiration Plus.
  • Multiple eco-friendly features. Several Aspiration features can help reduce your carbon footprint, or at least the guilt you feel about it. Even if these features’ tangible benefit is unclear, they go well beyond what most other financial institutions offer.
  • Deposit insurance well above standard FDIC coverage. Aspiration offers deposit insurance on balances up to $2 million, several times the standard FDIC coverage limit. This is a big advantage for higher-net-worth users.
  • Need to pay a monthly fee to unlock all benefits. One of Aspiration Spend & Save’s biggest disadvantages is Aspiration Plus’s relatively high monthly fee. Unless you use Aspiration as your primary financial institution, it might not pay for itself.

Aspiration Spend & Save Plans

Aspiration offers two plans: Aspiration Standard and Aspiration Plus. Aspiration Standard has no required monthly fee, though you can pay one if you want. Aspiration Plus costs $7.99 per month.

Your choice of plan determines which features you have access to and how much you can earn on your purchases and savings:

Aspiration Standard Aspiration Plus
Yield on Balances 1.00% APY on the first $10,000 3.00% APY on the first $10,000
Cash Back on Purchases Up to 5% Up to 10%
Early Direct Deposit Yes Yes
Free ATM Withdrawals Yes, in-network Yes, in-network plus one monthly out-of-network
Optional Tree Planting Yes, free Yes, free
Automatic Driving Offsets No Yes, at no extra cost
Purchase Assurance No Yes, on eligible items for 90 days from purchase

Basically, Aspiration Plus is potentially much more rewarding than Aspiration Standard, but you need to maintain a significant balance and regularly make purchases with Aspiration’s Conscience Coalition partners to get real value from it.

Key Features of Aspiration Spend & Save

Aspiration Spend & Save has the same basic features and parameters as other online bank accounts, but it throws some curveballs as well. 

Account Yield & Requirements

To earn full interest on your balance in a given month, you must make at least $500 in qualifying debit card transactions during the period. 

Once you clear that hurdle, you can earn interest on balances at least up to $10,000 in your Save account. Balances above $10,000 earn no interest for Aspiration Standard users and 0.25% APY for Aspiration Plus users. Aspiration Plus users also earn 0.25% APY on their balances even if they don’t spend enough on their debit card.

The yield is 1.00% APY with Aspiration Standard and 3.00% APY with Aspiration Plus, subject to change at Aspiration’s discretion.

Account Fees & Minimums

The minimum deposit and ongoing balance is $10. There’s no monthly maintenance fee with Aspiration Standard unless you want to pay one. Aspiration Plus has an unavoidable $7.99 monthly fee.

Cash Back on Eligible Purchases

You can earn cash back on eligible debit card purchases with Aspiration’s Conscience Coalition partners, which include well-known retail brands and service providers like Warby Parker, Allbirds, Imperfect Foods, and Blue Apron.

The cash-back rate varies by partner and your plan level. The maximum payback is 5% with Aspiration Standard and 10% with Aspiration Plus.

Early Direct Deposit

Regardless of your plan level, you can get your paycheck direct-deposited up to two days early if your employer or benefits provider qualifies. Most private employers and government agencies qualify.

ATM Access

Aspiration has more than 55,000 fee-free machines in its ATM network. With Aspiration Plus, you also get one monthly reimbursement for out-of-network ATM fees.

Mobile Features

Aspiration is a mobile-first platform built around its iOS and Android mobile apps. The mobile app earns high marks from Google Play and App Store reviewers, and Aspiration has made several significant updates (each adding new features) since 2019. The interface is intuitive and uncluttered and can handle essential banking functions like remote check deposit and online bill payments.

Climate-Friendly Features

Environmental consciousness and action are core to Aspiration’s brand. In addition to built-in incentives to shop with eco- and climate-friendly brands, Aspiration’s eco-friendly features include:

  • A debit card made from recycled plastic
  • The option to have Aspiration plant a tree (or finance its planting) every time you swipe your debit card, at no out-of-pocket cost to you
  • A personal impact score, updated in real time, that measures the environmental and social impact of your purchases
  • Automatic carbon offsets for your driving at no out-of-pocket cost, based on how much you drive and how much fuel you consume (only with Aspiration Plus)

Aspiration also pledges to give at least 10% of its profits to charity, though not all contributions go to environmental causes specifically.

Purchase Assurance (Aspiration Plus Only)

As an Aspiration Plus member, you qualify for purchase assurance for 90 days on eligible items purchased with your debit card. Purchase assurance is a basic insurance policy that reimburses you for qualifying theft or damage.

Other Purchase Protections

Regardless of your plan level, you get other purchase protections:

  • Extended warranties on most purchases, typically double the length of the manufacturer’s existing warranty
  • Refunds on eligible purchases for up to 60 days from sale, even if the retailer won’t accept your refund
  • Up to $600 in cell phone protection when you pay your phone bill with your Aspiration debit card

Deposit Insurance

Aspiration Spend & Save comes with FDIC insurance up to $2 million. That’s eight times the standard maximum of $250,000.

Pros & Cons

Aspiration Spend & Save is a rewarding money management platform with potentially significant environmental impact, but it has some notable downsides.

Pros

  • No required monthly fee
  • Excellent cash-back rate on eligible purchases
  • Above-average yields with Aspiration Plus
  • Multiple opportunities to reduce carbon impact

Cons

  • Best yields capped at $10,000 maximum balance
  • Minimum debit card purchases required to earn interest
  • $7.99 monthly fee for Aspiration Plus

Pros

Aspiration Spend & Save can more than pay for itself with regular use and is one of the few financial platforms that pays more than lip service to environmental causes.

  • No required maintenance fee. Aspiration Standard has no required monthly maintenance fee. You can still earn interest and debit card rewards without pay out of pocket each month.
  • Earn up to 10% on eligible debit card purchases. You can earn up to 10% on eligible debit card purchases with Aspiration Plus. If you spend heavily with Conscience Coalition partners, you can almost certainly offset Aspiration Plus’s monthly membership fee with earned rewards.
  • Yields up to 3.00% APY with Aspiration Plus. That’s not quite a category-leading yield, but it’s better than most traditional bank savings accounts pay.
  • Extra deposit insurance at no additional cost. Aspiration guarantees deposits up to $2 million per account holder. This is a big deal for the select few users who hold more cash than the FDIC’s standard deposit insurance covers.
  • Low minimum balance. Aspiration’s minimum balance is just $10, which shouldn’t be a hurdle for the vast majority of account holders.
  • Multiple opportunities to reduce carbon impact. Although the precise impact is difficult to quantify, Aspiration offers several good-faith opportunities to reduce the environmental impact of your purchasing habits and lifestyle (including your driving).
  • Bigger-than-average fee-free ATM network. Aspiration has more than 55,000 fee-free ATMs in its network, located all across the United States.

Cons

Aspiration Spend & Save reserves its best features for paying customers, who can still lose money on the deal, and there’s a natural limit to how much you can earn in rewards and interest.

  • Top yield only applies to the first $10,000. With Aspiration Standard, you only earn interest on the first $10,000 in your account. Aspiration Plus entitles you to interest on your entire balance, but at a greatly reduced rate (currently 0.25% APY). This limits your return on savings and makes it harder to offset Aspiration Plus’s full cost.
  • Must make at least $500 in qualifying debit card purchases to earn top interest. You must spend at least $500 on your debit card in any month you wish to earn the full interest rate. Otherwise, you earn no interest at all with Aspiration Standard and just 0.25% APY with Aspiration Plus.
  • Paid membership required for all features and value. To get the most out of Aspiration Spend & Save — both financially and environmentally — you need to pay nearly $8 per month for Aspiration Plus. 
  • Environmental benefits are opaque and difficult to measure. Aspiration contracts with reputable environmental organizations to plant trees and purchase carbon offsets. However, it’s inherently difficult to measure the actual impact of carbon-reducing actions (like planting trees, some percentage of which die as saplings) and products (like carbon offsets based on anti-deforestation agreements that counterparties often violate). Aspiration is probably lower-impact than big global banks like Citibank or Wells Fargo, but by how much is less clear.

How Aspiration Spend & Save Stacks Up

Aspiration Spend & Save is a potentially rewarding financial platform that can improve your finances while lessening your impact on the environment. But before you apply, see how it compares to popular competitors like the Signature Federal Credit Union High-Yield Checking account.

Aspiration Spend & Save Signature FCU High-Yield
Maintenance Fee $0 to $7.99 per month $0
Minimum to Open $10 $0
Minimum Ongoing $10 $0
Maximum Yield 3.00% APY with Aspiration Plus 4.00% APY
Qualifying Activities Yes Yes
Maximum Balance to Earn Yes, $10,000 Yes, $20,000
Spending Rewards Up to 10% cash back None

Aspiration Spend & Save has more potential value than Signature FCU High-Yield Checking thanks to its cash-back rewards program and unlimited base yield for Aspiration Plus users. But if all you care about is maximizing your yield on day-to-day balances, Signature FCU’s higher interest rate makes it the better choice.

Final Word

Aspiration Spend & Save is one of the better high-yield checking and savings packages available to U.S. residents. Its eco-friendly features enhance its appeal for users who want to reduce the ecological impact of their everyday choices without sacrificing financial rewards.

That said, Aspiration Spend & Save has some important shortcomings, both financially and ecologically. Before you open an account, figure out how much you expect to use it — and how much you expect to keep in your account — and decide whether it’s worthwhile.

Editorial Note:
The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.



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