As online banking quickly becomes a new normal, choosing which bank to go with can be tricky with all of the options out there.
There are brick-and-mortar banks that now offer internet-based options for customers to carry out basic financial services such as wire transfers. Then there are online-only financial platforms that have no physical locations but offer savings and checking accounts just like their traditional counterparts.
Aspiration and USAmeriBank are two financial platforms that have gained popularity in recent years for their online services. We’ve compared them in this article below so you can decide which one is a better choice for you.
USAmeriBank (Valley National Bank)
USAmeriBank is a bank based in Clearwater, Florida that was acquired by Valley National Bank in 2018. The acquisition expanded Valley National Bank’s presence in the Tampa Bay market as well as in major cities in Alabama, including Birmingham and Montgomery.
In 2017, USAmeriBank had a network of 29 branch offices and approximately $4.5 billion in assets.
Valley National Bank offers a diverse portfolio of financial products and services that fit every life stage.
Parents can help their children build a savings habit by opening a custodial Valley Kids First Savings Club account while families can prepare for medical expenses with a Health Savings account.
Valley also allows customers to open a checking account that helps them earn cash rewards. For those who want to build a long-term savings fund, Valley National Bank provides high interest rates on their money market and CD accounts.
Offers a wide variety of account options
When customers bank with USAmeriBank and Valley National Bank’s larger network, they’re presented with a large catalog of checking, savings, money market, and CD accounts. These accounts are designed to fit just about any budget – the minimum deposit starts at around $25 and fees are relatively reasonable.
Online account options
Valley makes everyday banking easy with iOS and Android-supported mobile banking apps and web browsers that help customers access their bank accounts anytime, anywhere.
Customers can conduct secure financial transactions, manage mortgage payments and check their bank balance in just a few seconds using these online platforms.
Access to physical branch locations
USAmeriBank and its principal subsidiary Valley National Bank operate 230 physical branches in New Jersey, Florida, Alabama, and the New York City boroughs of Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and Long Island.
Customers can open bank accounts at these branches and see customer representatives to resolve any bank account issues they may have.
Low interest rates
Despite the wide variety of products and services they offer, Valley National Bank offers low-interest rates compared to its competitors.
Customers who open Valley checking accounts may only earn up to 0.50% APY on deposits between $25,000 and $10,000,000. Those with savings accounts can expect to receive between 0.02% and 0.04% APY.
High minimum balance requirements
Valley requires customers to maintain a $300 average daily collected balance for savings accounts opened online and a $500 minimum daily balance for accounts opened at a physical branch to avoid paying monthly fees.
For checking accounts, customers need to maintain a $99 daily ledger balance to avoid the $15 monthly account maintenance fee.
Limited ATM locations
Customers with Valley National Bank can only access ATM services at select locations in New Jersey, New York, Florida, and Alabama. This limited geographic reach may be inconvenient for people who travel a lot or live outside of these states.
Aspiration is a B-Corp certified online financial platform that offers checking and savings accounts as well as investment products, with a focus on environmental sustainability and community development.
They don’t use any of their customers’ deposits to fund environmentally-destructive projects such as oil pipelines. All of the deposits kept at Aspiration are FDIC-insured up to $2.46 million per depositor and held at one or more of their ten FDIC member partner banks.
Aspiration operates on a “Pay What is Fair” policy that allows customers to choose how much they want to pay for a basic savings account, starting at $0. Its services are all based online, giving customers the convenience of accessing their bank accounts from any location on the planet through the Aspiration mobile banking app and web browsers.
As part of its social consciousness initiative, Aspiration also offers customers between 5% and 10% cashback when they shop at any of Aspiration’s Conscience Coalition partners, which include TOMS, Warby Parker, and Blue Apron, using an Aspiration debit card. This initiative is aimed at promoting companies that put sustainability at the heart of their businesses.
High interest rates
With an Aspiration Plus account, customers can earn up to 1.00% APY on their savings deposits. This applies to the first $10,000 in a customer’s Aspiration Save account and requires customers to spend a minimum of $1,000 per month using their Aspiration debit card.
For those who have a savings account balance of $10,000 or less, they may earn up to 0.25% APY on their balance.
Commitment to social and environmental sustainability
Aspiration donates ten cents of every dollar earned to charitable activities that expand economic opportunities for struggling Americans. Through their micro-loan partner Accion U.S. Network, Aspiration provides financial packages and mentoring to help people start small businesses in their communities.
Aspiration also helps customers fight climate change through its “Plant Your Change” program, which rounds every transaction made to the nearest dollar and uses the spare change to fund forest restoration projects.
Aspiration charges no fees for cash withdrawals at all 55,000 Allpoint ATMs across the United States. This is in addition to their “Pay What is Fair” policy that allows customers to choose however much they want to pay for Aspiration’s cash management services.
Extra services such as wire transfers and investment fund management cost money but that’s only because payments to third-parties are required for these services. Getting a new Aspiration debit card or replacing a stolen card is both free-of-charge.
No physical branches
Unfortunately, Aspiration does not have any physical branches. Customers who want to be able to go into a branch and get quick support from a bank employee may find this arrangement inconvenient.
As a substitute for physical branches, Aspiration provides customer support online or over the phone. Customers can contact support staff by calling 1-800-683-8529 or submitting an online form through the mobile app or online account.
Difficult to deposit cash
Customers currently cannot make cash deposits via ATMs into their Spend and Save accounts. Aspiration is working on making this a possibility in the near future but for the time being, customers can purchase a money order with their cash and deposit the money order into their accounts using the mobile check deposit option found in their online accounts.
Offers limited investment services
Aspiration only offers two professionally managed mutual funds to its customers which are its Flagship Fund and Redwood Fund. The Flagship Fund consists of long-term growth stock options while the Redwood Fund is a completely fossil fuel-free fund made up of sustainable, environmentally-conscious companies.
Customers don’t need to pay any extra fees for these mutual funds except for a small number of operating fees charged by third-parties.
Interest rates – USAmeriBank vs. Aspiration
Between the two banks, Aspiration offers a higher interest rate to its customers.
Whereas USAmeriBank provides an initial interest rate offering of 0.02% APY on its All Access Savings Account, Aspiration gives its customers a minimum of 0.25% APY on Save Account balances up to and including $10,000.
Plus, Aspiration only requires a $10 minimum deposit for customers to open an interest-yielding Aspiration Save Account. USAmeribank customers have to make a minimum initial deposit of $100 to be eligible for interest.
Sustainability – USAmeriBank vs. Aspiration
Although Aspiration and Valley National Bank are both committed to sustainability initiatives, Aspiration takes a stronger stance on environmental and ethical issues.
Aspiration does not invest in or lend money to any fossil fuel projects, private prisons, and weapons manufacturers. They focus on helping their customers grow their wealth and protect the planet at the same time through carbon offsetting initiatives such as their Planet Protection program.
They also give back generously to different charitable causes, from water conservation to child literacy.
Valley National Bank, on the other hand, focuses primarily on small business development and community development lending. In 2019, they invested $313 million for family residential mortgages and $445 million to help small business owners expand their operations.
Valley National Banks makes more of a commitment to help community members in the towns and cities where they’re based while Aspiration takes a more global approach to create sustainable growth.
Which is better?
For customers who are looking to grow their wealth in the most socially- and environmentally conscious manner, Aspiration is the choice to go with.
Although Valley National Bank may offer more account options, including online services, and have physical branches in four states, it doesn’t have friendly rates for new customers. Customers need to put down a minimum initial balance of $100 to start earning interest, which is set at 0.02% APY for standard savings accounts.
Aspiration’s Spend and Save Account offers much greater flexibility – customers can open an account with just $10 and choose how much they want to pay for account maintenance services. Customers who upgrade their accounts to the subscription-based Aspiration Plus account are eligible to earn between 0.25% and 1.00% APY for deposits up to $10,000.
Aspiration also offers more add-ons services to help customers do good for the planet. Customers can buy carbon offset trees through the “Planet Your Change” program or support sustainable businesses by investing in the Redwood mutual fund. Aspiration doesn’t invest any money in fossil fuels so customers can rest assured that their deposits won’t harm the environment.
We prefer Aspiration over USAmeriBank for its higher interest rates and greater accessibility. Customers with Aspiration can earn up to 1.00% APY on their savings deposits with just a $10 initial deposit. They can also manage their finances through Aspiration’s easy-to-use mobile app and withdraw cash for free from over 55,000 Allpoint ATMs across the United States.