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Opening a checking account isn’t always easy. You spend time comparing banks. There’s paperwork to provide. What about fees and rates?
Some of the fees more hidden than others. Then there are all the rules like minimum balance requirements.Sorting it out takes time. But the effort can really pay off, and account holders can avoid costly fees by doing their homework.
Thankfully, there’s a flip side. The good news is that finding a bank that fits your unique needs has never been easier. The growth of online or “internet” banking institutions means more choices for consumers.
What Is An Online Bank And How Does It Differ From My Local Bank Around The Corner?
In a nutshell, an online bank is, well, online. As in exclusively. Many traditional banks offer online services, of course, but they also offer a brick and mortar location. You know, an actual building with four walls, a roof and bank representatives you can talk to face-to-face.
Does this mean online banks don’t have employees to help you with your questions? Of course not. It simply means that customer service is offered in the form of phone, email, online chat or, in some cases, social media.
One perk that an online banking institution offers is the lower overhead cost. Foregoing a brick and mortar building cuts costs significantly. There are no buildings to heat, cool, maintenance and physically staff. There’s no need to advertise with fancy banners or printed brochures.
These Savings Are Passed Along To Consumers In The Form Of Greater Flexibility And Better Terms, Including Savings Rates
In fact, according to a recent article on MoneyRates.com, nearly 70 percent of online banks offer free checking. That’s significant considering just 25 percent of traditional institutions offer free checking. In addition, online banks typically offer lower minimum starting deposits and lower overdraft fees.
Online banks even trump their brick and mortar counterparts in savings and checking rates, according to Investopedia.
Where internet banks may fall short is in the services and interpersonal connection arenas.
If you’re someone who likes the peace of mind of having a building to enter and a live person to speak with, online banking may make you a bit uncomfortable at first.
While internet banks potentially offer great rates and low fees, they may offer fewer products like mortgage lending, auto loans, CDs and mutual funds. If you like a broad range of services all in one place, online banking may be a difficult concept to get used to.
The best way to know what internet banking is like is to open an account and just give it a try. Opening an account to save for a special expense or emergency fund is a great way to dip your toe into the internet banking pool.
With no fees and interest rates up to 100 times higher than a traditional bank, the Aspiration Summit checking account is definitely an online bank worth considering.
That’s right. Typical interest rates with a traditional checking account are around 0.01% to 0.06% annually. Aspiration boasts a rate 25 to 100 times that APY depending on your account balance.
Is the Aspiration Summit checking account truly a five-star experience? Let’s dig a little deeper.
Know where your money is at all times with the Aspiration Summit mobile app, available for both Android and iOS. The app is free to download, and you can even apply for an account directly through the mobile app. This allows you to bypass the website altogether.
Pay Bills For Free With The “Payments” Feature
Make payments to a business or a person using the Summit account’s free “Payments” feature (Aspiration’s version of online bill-pay). There is no limit to the number of checks you write each month using this feature, and checks are delivered within 5-7 days.
If you’re a paper check kind of person, you can email customer service to request checks. The first 25 checks are free, but you’ll need to purchase checks thereafter. With the option to pay with an e-check for free, chances are you won’t even need checks at all.
There are several ways to get in contact with someone at Aspiration. You can email anytime, call their customer service number or initiate a web chat. The customer service hours during the week are similar to traditional bank hours, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST Monday through Friday.
They offer both Saturday and Sunday hours as well from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. PST. This is an advantage over most traditional banks that are closed on Sundays and offer limited Saturday hours.
The web chat hours are the same as the customer service phone hours. Web chat provides a convenient way to quickly get your questions answered. Expect a customer service representative to respond to your chat request within seconds.
The service representatives are helpful and personable while quickly answering questions.
Mobile Deposits And Direct Deposits
Depositing money into your Summit checking account is easy and can be accomplished in a variety of ways.
- You can physically mail a check for deposit
- You can transfer funds from an already existing bank account
- You can deposit cash or checks at any NYCE Shared Deposit ATM
- You can snap a picture of your check using the mobile app
Just like any bank, there is a hold on your funds, which typically clear your Summit account within two business days. The hold period is five days in your first 30-day period as an account holder.
Mobile deposits do have a limit of $5,000 per transaction, but the feature is super convenient. Make deposits anytime, anywhere with just a few clicks.
Direct deposit is also welcome with your Summit checking account. All you need is your routing number and your paycheck can be automatically deposited just like a traditional bank. Hi there, payday!
No ATM Fees. Ever.
Aspiration’s no-fee promise comes in two ways. There are no fees using an ATM in the NYCE network. If you are charged a fee for an ATM transaction, Aspiration will issue a rebate once per month to your checking account to offset the cost. Even foreign ATM fees are reimbursed to your Summit account.
The checking account is free, with no hidden fees. Aspiration’s “Pay What Is Fair” method ensures that you only pay what you feel their services are worth.
When you open a checking account, you’ll be asked what you want your fee to be. That can be anywhere from $0 to $10. For every dollar you contribute, Aspiration gives 10 percent to charity.
Aspiration is confident in their services and confident that customers will pay what is fair. Period.
There’s no difference in service between a customer who contributes $10 and one who pays zero.
Check Your Sustainability Score
The feature that is most unique, if not downright quirky, is that Aspiration uses your purchasing pattern to determine what your Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM) is.
What exactly is AIM? According the their website, “AIM provides scores based on the social and environmental impact of the businesses at which you spend your money.”
That includes how businesses treat everything: customers, employees, environment and their community.
The idea is that you have full visibility to your own sustainability footprint. Then you can make purchases that align to your personal values if you choose.
Score one for planet Earth.
If you’re not into this, or you don’t want to find out that a bulk of your spending supports unsustainable companies, you do have the option to turn the feature off so that you won’t see your AIM score.
While this feature seems peculiar, it underscores Aspiration’s mission and values, which include supporting the “little guy.” Also top shelf for Aspiration: the environment and charitable organizations – all things everyone can certainly stand behind.
No Overdraft Fees. Sort Of.
Account holders should never incur overdraft fees from a debit card, transfer or ATM withdrawal. Why? Because your transaction will simply be declined if you don’t have the funds.
You can, however, incur an overdraft fee of $25 from writing a bad check. If your account continues in overdraft for five days, a daily fee of $5 is charged until the account is brought current.
Using the mobile app to stay connected to your account should ensure this doesn’t happen, but the fee is certainly worth noting.
Incredible Interest Rate
If you have a checking account with a brick and mortar bank now, you probably already know that your account is yielding next to nothing.
Aspiration Summit offers 0.25% APY on balances of $2,499 and under. The rate jumps to 1.0% APY on balances of $2,500 or more. According to Aspiration, this is a minimum of 25 times higher than the average traditional bank. Most banks don’t even break one tenth of a percent.
Higher interest yields? Yes please.
Low minimum deposit and no minimum balance requirement
This is one of the best perks of the Aspiration Summit account. Opening an account takes only $10, and after that there is no minimum balance.
Traditional checking accounts often carry a minimum balance requirement in order to avoid fees. You may find yourself jumping through hoops to meet free account requirements. Some banks insist that you to make a minimum number of debit card purchases or have at least one direct deposit set up in order to maintain free checking.
With Aspiration, there is no maze of conditions to meet. It’s actually pretty simple. By simple, they mean free. No strings attached.
A Bank That Gives Back
For every dollar it makes, Aspiration gives 10 percent of it back in the form of charitable contributions to organizations that focus on economic development.
Specifically, Aspiration focuses on causes related to poverty, water, education, environment, health and human rights. They also offer the Aspiration Opportunity Fund, which provides micro loans for those struggling to start small businesses.
More Than Just A Checking Account, There Are Investment Options
These investment options only require $100 minimum to invest. This is great for first-time investors or people who simply don’t have the capital to invest thousands of dollars.
Bonus: these accounts only invest in companies that operate sustainably. That is, your investment won’t go toward fossil fuels. It will be invested in companies with sustainable environmental and employee practices.
Aspiration also offers Redwood and Flagship IRA accounts with the same minimum $100 requirement. Hop on board the Tax-Deferred Retirement Savings Express! Destination: your future.
Your Funds Are Secured
Just like any traditional bank, Aspiration is FDIC insured up to $250,000.
If you’re worried about the security of transacting online, don’t be. Aspiration assures customers that security is a top priority, confidently stating, “Security is the heart of everything we do.”
Their security policy is robust and nothing less than what you would expect from a traditional bank. That includes monitoring your account for fraudulent activity.
Limitations of the Aspiration Summit Checking Account
Access isn’t always instant
When you apply for an account through the website, the application sends a request to Aspiration and you must then wait for an invitation to join. The wait time is typically less than two weeks. Eventually, the online application process won’t be by invitation only. For now, it is.
No Joint Account Option
Currently, there is no option to create a joint checking account. This is temporary according to the Aspiration customer service representative I corresponded with via online chat. Currently, the closest you can come is naming a beneficiary for the account.
This gap in their account offerings should be a thing of the past soon enough. The bank plans on offering a joint account option in the near future.
Not A Full Suite Of Banking Products
Though the perks of Aspiration’s Summit account are generous, the bank doesn’t offer some of the products that others do, especially those found at a one-stop-shop traditional bank.
Currently, Aspiration does not offer mortgage lending, auto loans, CDs, rewards credit cards or savings accounts.
There Are Some Fees. Do Your Homework.
Aspiration does a great job marketing their online institution as the simple, no-brainer solution to the greedy Wall Street mentality.
But just like any good consumer should do, read the fine print nonetheless. Make sure you review the full fee schedule. After all, just because an entity claims “do-gooder” status, doesn’t mean that that translates to you personally.
Review all information provided on Aspiration’s website, ask questions and make the choice that’s right for your financial situation, lifestyle and values.
Overall, the Aspiration Summit checking is an incredible free option with stellar interest rates and a commitment to giving back.
Aspiration certainly offers perks significant enough to turn anyone’s head, but the true distinction is in the their commitment to giving back. They pronounce a commitment to communities, charities and, ultimately, to customers.
It’s also worth noting that they do so so in a way that is bright, witty and engaging.
The tone and voice of Aspiration’s branding makes reading their website and interacting with customer service a refreshing experience. Don’t expect the vibe to be stiff, stuffy or otherwise power-suit related.
The Summit online checking account is the perfect option for anyone, whether you’re a first-time account holder or you want a separate account to stash your money away for something special.
Aspiration proves that online banking can be simple, secure, sustainable and financially rewarding.