REI Credit Card vs. Aspiration Zero: Compare and Contrast

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REI Credit Card vs. Aspiration Zero: Compare and Contrast

If you’re a sustainability-conscious consumer, you might have thought about the amount of plastic that gets wasted due to credit cards every year. You also might have heard some promising things about the Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI) and the Aspiration Zero credit cards. Considering the seriousness of plastic pollution, do you really need another card?

What’s the real impact of choosing a “green” credit card, and what is a green credit card anyway?

Since these cards seem to be natural competitors, here we compare and contrast them so you can determine which one is right for you and your shopping needs.

Switching to Aspiration: sustaining the environment

One thing the REI and Aspiration Zero credit card shoppers probably have in common is an affinity for the outdoors and environmentalism. Both companies share a philosophy grounded in good stewardship of the environment. 

REI states on its website a belief that a ‘life lived outdoors is a life well-lived.’ The company’s stores cater to consumers looking for camping gear, sporting goods, travel essentials, and clothing for an outdoor-centric life.

Aspiration goes beyond this with their green cards. Aspiration is a financial services provider that gears its products toward social and environmentally conscious consumers and merchants. From the moment you land on Aspiration’s page, it is apparent that it wants consumers to be aware of how their spending can inadvertently contribute to climate change, and they offer products that allow the users to reduce their impact.

Why shift to a sustainability friendly card

Shifting to an environmentally-friendly card allows you to make your purchases the same way you’ve always done while contributing to saving the planet. Green credit cards like Aspiration Zero translate purchases into actions against climate change, and are also made of plant-based materials. Additionally, as these cards are mostly new, there are usually promotions, discounts and special features that enhance the users’ experience.

Aspiration Zero

The Aspiration Zero credit card debuted in early 2021, so there is a fairly limited amount of information available about it. However, each purchase made on the card results in the planting of one new tree. Customers can also round up each purchase, with the extra amount earmarked for a second tree.

While customers using this card enjoy cashback rewards, many see its primary benefit as the ability to offset their carbon footprint by transforming their spending power into a tangible activity that is supportive of the environment and is a helpful contributor to strategies countering the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere. 

Aspiration believes that 60 trees planted through your spending in one month is likely enough to offset your carbon footprint over time. The company incentivizes people to use their credit card more often. The more you spend, the better your cashback rate and the more trees planted.

Aspiration Zero credit cards are also unique in that they are not plastic. Instead, the Aspiration Zero credit card is made from compostable plant material.

Also, unlike a traditional credit card provider, the company’s app goes beyond enabling you to control your account. The Aspiration app allows you to see how the company rates the merchants with whom you shop. By comparing and contrasting merchants, Aspiration ranks them on factors such as their treatment of employees and the environmental impact of their operations.

Aspiration hopes to guide you toward the most environmentally and socially conscious merchants through this rating system. Through your informed and selective use of your credit card, you can track the impact of your purchases on the environment and stay tuned to the bigger picture when it comes to where you shop.

And the company’s activism doesn’t end there. For instance, many banks charge a fee for the convenience of using their ATMs, which is considered by some to be a barrier that limits some people’s access to banking services. Aspiration’s ATM network is accessible to all, with no fees associated with use.

Aspiration: A Top Choice

How to identify a green bank

Green banks are committed to the environment by driving private investment into eco-friendly solutions and providing eco-friendly options for consumers.

The name usually refers to the newest institutions, either public or private, that originated with this in mind. However, “greening” is also an ongoing trend by which banks change their policies to be more responsible and contribute to the planet’s wellbeing.

When looking for a green bank, ensure that their policies are transparent, that they are B-corp certified, and read about how they relate to fossil fuels and other industries that damage our planet. They must be committed to clean money.

Why climate action needs to match how we spend

Most banks, especially large ones, invest in fossil fuels every time you spend or if you have a savings account. Like many big corporations, banks will usually seek ways to make more money regardless of the impact on the environment.

As spending is something we all do regularly, we must pay attention to how we do it. We have the opportunity to be environmentally friendly without having to make big changes in our daily lives. While there are many actions we can take, switching to a green bank is a very reasonable place to start, as it’s not only easy but, as Aspiration puts it: “Individual action causes a ripple effect.” If more and more people change the way they spend, the change for the better is already significant.

REI vs. Aspiration Zero

Fees and Benefits

Aspiration Zero credit cards have a $60 annual fee, but that includes some other features that might help lead consumers to more sustainable purchasing.

An REI credit card requires a membership at REI stores. So you have to pay $20 for the ability to shop at REI and for the use of its credit card services. It is a lifetime fee. 

Cashback 

The REI credit card offers 5% cashback on all purchases in REI stores and 1% cashback on everything else you buy. Since REI users also enjoy discounted pricing on many items through their membership, regular shoppers can save quite a bit. 

The Aspiration Zero credit card encourages shoppers to use their card more often by rewarding them with a higher cashback rate based on their volume of purchases. (The idea is that the more you purchase, the more you reduce your carbon footprint.) The base return is half of a percent, but you can increase your cashback rate to 1% on your purchases for that entire month by using the card more often. 

APR

The annual percentage rate (APR) is an annualized representation of your interest rate. APR on a credit card typically translates to the amount of interest accrued on any balances you don’t pay off before their due date. That unpaid balance carries over from one month to the next, and you will also be subject to an interest charge. 

To avoid paying interest charges, you can simply pay off your end balance before the due date. 

The range of available APR on an REI credit card is anywhere from 13.99% to 23.99%. If you have a decent personal financial outlook, you are likely to be approved to become an REI member. 

But when you apply to become an REI credit card customer, if you don’t have genuinely outstanding credit, you might end up with a very high APR. For reference, the average 5% cashback credit card in the United States has an APR of 15.11%.  

For some shoppers, the biggest drawback of using an REI credit card is that the company designed it to be paid off in full every month.

There is no information on what your likely APR will be with an Aspiration credit card. At this time, there are no advertised details about the APR for Aspiration Zero credit cards, as it premiered earlier this year. To find out, you have to apply to Aspiration’s waitlist.  

Where others are going wrong

Large banks invest money in fossil fuels. Most of them do not have specific policies regarding climate change or the environment in general. Moreover, the use of plastic credit cards continues to increase the planet’s already alarming plastic contamination.

Thankfully, more and more banks and businesses are ‘going green’ in one way or the other, and new enterprises are arising with this in mind. As a customer, it is important to start considering these options so you can do your part as well. 

REI is a sustainable business that invests in the outdoor community. But Aspiration, particularly the Aspiration Zero card, will allow you to create a positive impact as the company is not only committed to clean money but also plants a tree every time you spend.

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