I recently made a huge move — from Wisconsin to Florida — but it’s not my first. Before that, I had stints in Seattle, Salt Lake City and San Francisco.
Plus there was a period where I didn’t have any residence at all. I bounced from city to city for about eight months via hotel rooms, couches and lots of goodwill.
To say this lifestyle makes banking a challenge would be an understatement.
I need an easy way to access my cash and an account I can manage from anywhere — but beyond that, my banking needs are pretty simple.
Plenty of institutions offer online banking or brick and mortar branches around the country, but many also come with fees or requirements I don’t want to be bothered with.
I don’t need much from my bank. I’m not applying for loans, traveling internationally or even writing checks, so I don’t want to pay extra for services I won’t use.
That’s why I was happy to discover Aspiration.
Aspiration’s Summit Checking Account is an online-only bank account with no fees, no minimum balance and no minimum monthly deposit.
It yields up to 1.00% interest, which is 100 times more than my existing checking account!
That makes this checking account the perfect place for me to save extra money for things like holiday shopping and travel.
A debit card and free ATMs anywhere in the world make it more accessible than a typical savings account, and the high yield makes it far more lucrative.
Why I Like This Checking Account
On top of the benefits of the Summit Account, I’m actually impressed with Aspiration as a company. This isn’t a traditional bank; it’s a California startup with a jovial personality that’s sorely lacking in the financial space.
The Summit Account is less than a year old and has been named a “Best Checking Account in America” by Money magazine.
The modern interface of the website makes banking intuitive (can you imagine?!). And the company is not only good at what it does; it’s also fun and socially responsible.
My favorite part of the sign-up process was the little extras that popped up as I navigated the website. I entered my March birth date, and instead of a plain confirmation, I was surprised by the message, “You’re a Pisces! Do you like the ocean?”
I do, in fact, love the ocean! I appreciated the personal touch, something you don’t find from many banks.
Plus, the company’s commitment to “do well and do good” means it donates 10% of its revenue to charity.
Where does that revenue come from if the services are free? All of Aspiration’s services work on a “pay what is fair” model. You choose your price and pay as a “tip.”
When you create an account, you’ll be prompted to choose your tip — a recurring payment up to $6 per month — and you can choose as little as $0.
How to Open a Summit Checking Account
If this sounds good to you, too, you can get started with Aspiration here.
Start by entering your email to secure your spot. Within seven to 14 days, you’ll get an invitation via email to set up your account.
Once you receive your invitation, the whole sign-up process takes about 20 minutes.
You’ll need your Social Security Number (you must be a U.S. citizen to open this account), a state-issued I.D. or passport, and your online login information for an existing bank account.
To open the account, you’ll need to make a one-time deposit of at least $10.
At the end of the sign-up process, you’ll e-sign and receive a PDF of the account agreement. I loved that I didn’t have to print or scan anything — I haven’t owned a printer in years.
You’ll answer some questions to verify your identity online, and if that works, you’ll be set. Based on my answers, the system was unable to verify my identity, so I had to complete an additional step.
I received an email the following day asking for primary and secondary I.D. I took a picture of my driver’s license and obtained a PDF of a check stub. I resubmitted the application, and my account was approved and open within three days.
Tips for Using an Online Checking Account
The Summit Account might not replace your existing bank account, but it can augment your financial benefits. Here are the cool ways I’ve found to use it:
My favorite perk of the Summit Account is the free ATMs! Users who travel, especially abroad, can transfer money into the account, so it’s available when you need it at no extra charge.
Saving for Special Events
This seems like a great account to save for holiday shopping — but I prefer to use it as a travel fund.
I like to deposit payments from my freelance side gigs into my Summit Account. It’s helped me save for my flights home for the holidays, and now I’m planning a trip to Washington, D.C. for New Year’s Eve and meeting friends in Las Vegas later in January!
The Summit Account offers 1.00% APY on a full balance of $2,500 or more, or 0.25% on a balance below $2,500. Compare that to an average savings account with an interest rate of about 0.06%.
With no fees and no minimum, this is an attractive option for saving small amounts.
In addition to saving for special events, this account can be a good place to keep an emergency fund. You can make payments as needed with an Aspiration debit card, via Apple Pay or through Venmo.
Giving to Charity
Best of all, you can give to your favorite causes directly from your Summit Account. Just enter an amount you want to give, and select one or more causes — poverty, water, education, etc.
This should make it easy to start contributing to causes that fight poverty. It’s something I’ve been trying to get around to since college…
Plus, when you refer a friend who opens a Summit Account, Aspiration will donate $25 to your favorite charity and to your friend’s, too. That’s all on top of the 10% the company already donates!
Investing Through Aspiration
In addition to the free, high-yield checking account, Aspiration offers two investment funds for middle-class investors. They are:
- Flagship Fund: This mutual fund has a goal of long-term growth with limited volatility.
- Redwood Fund: This fund invests in companies with sustainable, environmental and socially responsible practices.
These funds require only a $500 minimum investment, which opens up financial services that were traditionally only available to elite investors.
Should You Switch to Aspiration?
I’ve been really impressed so far. The Summit Account is a solid complement to my existing bank account, and one that helps me give back to a charity I care about.
I get the benefits of setting aside money into a high-yield account without paying a fee or worrying about keeping a minimum balance. And I get access to my cash anywhere I go without wasting money on ATM fees.
Your Turn: What features would you look for in an online checking account?
Sponsorship Disclosure: A huge thanks to Aspiration for working with us to bring you this content. It’s rare that we have the opportunity to share something so awesome and get paid for it!
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more.