This Secret Account Pays up to 200 Times the Normal Interest Rate
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2015 and has been updated to reflect the details of current Aspiration products.
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 offers online-only accounts with no fees*, no minimum balance and no minimum monthly deposit for its spending account. Plus it’s savings account offers 2.00% APY!
Why I Like This Account
On top of the benefits of the Aspiration Spend and Save 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 modern interface of the website makes managing your money 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 banks.
Plus, the company’s commitment to “do well and do good” means it commits to donating 10% of its earnings 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 $10 per month. You can choose as little as $0, and you can change it anytime.
How to Open an Aspiration Account
If this sounds good to you, too, you can get started with Aspiration here.
Start by entering your email address. The whole sign-up process takes less than five minutes.
You’ll need your Social Security Number (you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to open this account) and your current bank account information to set up your opening deposit.
To open the account, you’ll need to make a one-time deposit of at least $10.
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
I haven’t left my old bank behind just yet, but my Aspiration account offers some nice perks that help me manage my money better. Here are the cool ways I’ve found to use it:
My favorite perk 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. You’ll be reimbursed for ATMs from anywhere in the world within a few days.
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 Aspiration account. It’s helped me save for my flights home for the holidays!
Aspiration offers 2.00% APY on savings. That’s 25 times the average savings account interest rate of 0.08% reported by Bankrate — and at least 100 times what you’ll get with a typical checking account!
With no monthly fee and a minimum deposit of just $1 per month, 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 transfer between accounts easily and 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 Aspiration 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 Aspiration account, Aspiration will donate $25 to your favorite charity and to your friend’s, too. That’s all on top of the 10% of earnings the company already commits donating!
Investing Through Aspiration
In addition to the free, high-yield 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 social practices.
"Impact investing" lets you invest in companies with sustainable, environmental and socially responsible practices. It helps you know your money is doing good.
These funds require only a $100 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. Aspiration is a solid complement to my 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.
We may receive compensation from Aspiration for promoting the company, but we weren’t paid for this specific review. All reporting is our own.
*Aspiration Partners, Inc. and its affiliates are committed to “All Extra Services Provided at Cost,” meaning that it’ll only charge you what it costs them to provide the extra service (such as a wire transfer), and not a penny more. Besides these at-cost service charges, the only account fee you pay is the fee you choose, even if it’s $0, which is why it’s called Pay What Is Fair.
Dana Sitar is a writer and editor at The Penny Hoarder. Say hi and tell her a good joke on Twitter @danasitar.