Over the past couple of years, even as I’ve opened plenty of other online banking accounts to review, there’s been one that’s stood out to me as doing something truly different: Aspiration. With their “Do Well. Do Good.” motto and balance between banking perks and environmental protection, they definitely made a mark — even getting the attention of Oscar winner Leo DiCaprio. Meanwhile, keeping up with Aspiration has proven to be a full-time job as the offering has routinely made sweeping changes to their accounts.
The latest change to Aspiration actually comes with its own name: Aspiration Plus. This new option includes some added benefits for those who upgrade — including some that speak to Aspiration’s environmental message. Yet the real question remains, “is it a good deal for consumers?”
Let’s take a look at what you need to know about Aspiration Plus.
What is Aspiration Plus?
In April 2020, the online banking service Aspiration announced a new tier of service dubbed Aspiration Plus. For an added fee, users can unlock some added bonuses and features. What are these perks, you ask? Let’s take a look at the main offerings:
Updated debit card
First, those who sign-up for Aspiration Plus will receive a new debit card. In addition to featuring an attractive new and more modern design, the card itself represents Aspiration’s larger mission, as each is created from recycled ocean plastic. To be fair, the new American Express Green Card (and perhaps others I’m unaware of) beat them to this gimmick, but the card looks great regardless.
Next up, Aspiration Plus allows customers to earn as much as 1% APY on their savings. While that’s good news for those who upgrade, sadly it also means that those who don’t will be left out in the cold as regular Aspiration accounts will no longer accrue interest. Moreover, in order to reach that 1% APY, Plus account holders will still need to meet some requirements. Here’s a quick breakdown:
- Aspiration Plus customers will earn 0.25% APY on the first $10,000 in their Save Accounts
- Aspiration Plus customers who also spend $1,000 a month on their debit card will earn 1% APY on the first $10,000 in their Save Accounts
- Funds over $10,000 will earn 0.10% APY
It’s worth noting that the spend requirement is new to Aspiration as previous APY-boosting offers revolved more around the amount of money that was going into your account, not out. By the way, we’ll get to my thoughts on this arrangement and the other features of Aspiration Plus in the “Is Aspiration Plus a Good Deal?” section. But for now, *bites tongue*
Just a day before Aspiration Plus was first announced, Aspiration also revealed that they had joined the Allpoint ATM network. This meant that customers would immediately have access to more than 55,000 free ATMs nationwide. However, it also meant that the company would be discontinuing their ATM reimbursement program, which most recently entitled customers to up to five reimbursements of ATM fees incurred anywhere in the world.
Well, in addition to having access to the Allpoint network ATMs, Aspiration Plus customers will also receive one out-of-network ATM fee reimbursed per month. Notably, in the case of international ATMs, Aspiration will continue to credit these transactions at a standard rate of $4. Moreover, should fees exceed this $4 threshold, the company says that user will still be able to submit their receipts in order to obtain full reimbursement.
Cash back bump
Currently, Aspiration customers can earn cash back on select debit card purchases via a couple of different programs. For one, the service maintains a list of businesses with high Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM) scores and allows card holders to earn 0.5% back on purchases from these companies. Some of these include some major brands such as Apple, AT&T, Target, Walmart, and more (you can view a full list here). On top of that, Aspiration also boasts special offers for businesses in the Conscience Coalition, with cash back offers ranging from 3% to 5%. This list includes the likes of Blue Apron, TOMS, Warby Parker, and others (that list is here).
Luckily for Aspiration Plus members, the cash back rate for Conscience Coalition purchases is upped to a whopping 10% with no limit to the cash back you can earn. In particular, this could be a big deal for Blue Apron customers as that is a recurring expense. Of course, those in search of new shoes or glasses can easily benefit too.
Last but not least, Aspiration has also included their Planet Protection program in the new Aspiration Plus option. If you’re not familiar, with Planet Protection, Aspiration will automatically purchase carbon offsets in a bid to make your driving and gasoline consumption carbon neutral. Currently it’s unclear if Planet Protection will be discontinued as an a la carte option, although it does seem that it will now exclusively be a part of the Aspiration Plus package.
Is Aspiration Plus a Good Deal?
Now that you have a bit better idea of what Aspiration Plus offers, there’s another big question to address: “is it worth it?” To answer that, let’s take a look at the cost of Aspiration Plus as well as some of my thoughts on the program.
In order to answer the question, “Is Aspiration Plus worth it?” we must first look at how much it costs. Currently customers can join Aspiration Plus for $3.99 a month or $44.99 for a year if paid upfront. I should note that this price point is actually significantly lower than the $5.99 a month or $59.99 a year that Planet Protection previously fetched just on its own. Thus, when you consider that you’re getting that program along with the other benefits, it’s not a terrible deal by current standards. That said, as you’ll see, where I take the most issue with Aspiration Plus is when compared to what the banking service used to offer for free.
Compared to the Aspiration of yore
It’s impossible for me to write about Aspiration Plus without mentioning how much the bank has changed in just the past year or so. At one time, not only did they offer unlimited ATM reimbursements for any machine in the world but also allowed users to earn interest so long as they deposited just $1 a month into their account. Since then, they’ve slowly chipped away at that, frequently installing different and heightened requirements while scaling back perks.
More recently, in order to earn a 1.5% APY, users needed to deposit at least $2,000 a month and sign up for Planet Protection. Thus, I really feel bad for those who made good faith efforts to move their banking business over to Aspiration and set-up things like direct deposits only to now be told that they’ll need to spend $1,000 a month in order to earn less in interest. That, more than anything, is what bugs me about Aspiration Plus and makes it harder to appreciate the account’s admitted benefits.
My final thoughts on Aspiration Plus
I can’t say that there aren’t things to like about Aspiration Plus. For one, I will say that the new debit card design looks great — and the opportunity to earn up to 10% cash back with said debit card is pretty great. Also, for as much as I hate paying bank fees, $3.99 a month isn’t insanely steep.
On the other hand, I have to say that I think the $1,000 a month spend required to boost your APY to 1% is ridiculous and really sullies the entire offering. Also, once again, I can’t help but point out that the ATM perk is kind of a joke since it’s literally one-fifth of what they used to offer to all customers mere weeks ago. Still, for those who aren’t hung up on the past, like the idea of Planet Protection, and frequent other Conscience Coalition brands, the Aspiration Plus offering may well be worth it.
Of course I have to add that, as Aspiration has shown, the current features and benefits of Aspiration Plus could well change next week. Therefore, it makes it even harder to recommend them and really does a disservice to their mission in my view.
Originally published at Dyer News.