Varo vs Chime vs Aspiration

When it comes to choosing a new financial institution, the options are endless. With the number of products and services to choose from, it seems nearly impossible to choose just one. From national banks to credit unions to digital-only banks, it’s hard to know which way to go.
While picking a bank isn’t exactly stressful, making the wrong choice could cost you. Before committing to one company, here’s our take on three online checking and savings options.

About Each Brand

Varo

Varo, America’s first digital-only bank, prides itself on being inclusive. In 2021, the company added the slogan “A bank for all of us,” to its website and brand launch. Varo’s campaign is to push the idea that banking is for everyone, regardless of their ethnicity or financial situation. That’s why Varo offers consumers the chance to open a bank account sans credit check, no monthly fees, and no minimum balance fee.
If you’re looking for a basic checking and savings option, Varo offers both. Opening a Varo Bank Account is easy: Just download the Varo app from the App Store or Play Store, tap “Get Started,” and follow the on-screen prompts. Once approved, account-holders are issued a Visa debit card and are given the option to open a Varo Savings Account, as well.
Although Varo is a branchless banking option, account-holders can rest easy knowing that the money in both their Varo Savings Account and Varo Bank Account is FDIC insured for a combined total of $250,000 through Varo Bank, Member FDIC.

Chime

Chime is a branchless, mobile bank that allows users to bank on the go via the Chime website and/or one convenient mobile app that’s compatible with both iOS and Android devices.
Chime account-holders are given a Visa debit card that connects to their Chime Spending Account, which is a basic checking account. Unlike most traditional checking accounts, however, the Chime Spending Account is a no-fee checking account, meaning there are no monthly service fees, no transfer fees, no overdraft fees, and no foreign transaction fees. What’s more? Chime offers an early direct deposit feature that allows users to get their money up to two days early.
Account-holders are also given the option of opening a High-Yield Chime Savings Account, which offers an Annual Percentage Yield or APY of 0.50%. Neither the Chime Sending Account nor the High-Yield Chime Savings Account requires a minimum balance.
According to the company website, Chime accounts are FDIC insured up to $250,000 through The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A., Members FDIC.

Aspiration

Aspiration does all of the things that a traditional bank does, except it’s not a bank. Aspiration is an online financial service that focuses on being socially conscious and sustainable by offering members the option to plant a tree with every round-up. Aspiration combines its checking and savings offerings into two separate and eco-friendly plans, both of which offer an optional recycled-plastic debit card.
The Aspiration Plus plan is $15 per month for users who want to pay monthly or $12.50 per month for those who decide to pay annually, whereas the Pay What Is Fair Aspiration plan is a donation-based plan where users can pay what they want, even if it is $0. In addition to its checking and savings options, Aspiration gives users the chance to invest with professionally managed funds, open an IRA, and make tax-deductible donations to a cause of their choice.
Aspiration may not be a brick-and-mortar bank, but all account-holder deposits are still FDIC-insured up to $2 million per depositor, according to the Aspiration website.

Key features

Varo’s features

Varo offers two basic accounts: a Varo Bank Account and a Varo Savings Account. Here are the key features of each account:

Varo Bank Account

Varo offers a basic online checking account known as the Varo Bank Account. It’s easy to set up and doesn’t charge a monthly maintenance fee. To sign up for a Varo Bank Account, potential account-holders must be 18 years old or older, have a government-issued ID, and social security number. Here are some of the key features associated with a Varo Bank Account:
  • Early direct deposit. With Varo, account-holders can receive their direct deposit up to two days earlier than their scheduled payment date, according to the Varo website. As soon as Varo receives the funds from an account holder’s employer or benefits provider, Varo posts the funds to their account.
  • No-fee overdraft. Varo also has a No Fee Overdraft program that allows users to overdraw their checking account by up to $50 when making a debit card purchase. To be a part of the No Fee Overdraft program users must be able to make five debit purchases per month and receive a direct deposit of at least $1,000 per month. To enroll in the No Fee Overdraft program, account-holders need to ensure that the feature is activated via the Varo mobile app. Once activated, Varo account-holders have 30 calendar days to pay the amount back.
  • Free Varo to Varo transfers. Those who have a Varo Bank Account can send money to other Varo users for free using Varo’s Instant Transfer feature. Account-holders can make up to 50 Varo transfers per day and transfer up to $2,000 per 30-day period.

Varo Savings Account

After opening a Varo Bank Account, users have the option to open a Varo Savings Account as well. There’s no minimum deposit and no minimum account balance. Here are some of the key features associated with a Varo Savings Account:
  • Save Your Pay. Varo’s Save Your Pay tool gives users the option to save more by setting up a recurring transfer from their checking to their savings each time they receive a payment via direct deposit. Account-holders can choose the percentage they’d like to transfer.
  • Save Your Change round-ups. With Varo’s Save Your Change round-up feature, users can choose to round each transaction up to the nearest dollar. The difference is then deposited into the account holder’s savings account. There’s no fee for using Varo’s Save Your Change feature.
  • 24/7 access. Varo is a branchless bank account, which means users have 24/7 access to their accounts via a mobile app. Varo customers also have fee-free access to more than 55,000 Allpoint ATMs. Out-of-network ATMs will cost you $2.50 per withdrawal.

Chime’s features

Chime offers users two types of accounts: a checking account, also known as the “Chime Spending Account,” and a high-yield savings account. To open a savings account, you must have a Chime Spending Account. Here are the key features of each account:

Chime Spending Account

The Chime Spending Account is a basic checking account. It includes a Visa debit card that can be used worldwide anywhere Visa is accepted. Here are some of the key features associated with the Chime Spending Account:
  • No hidden fees. The Chime Spending Account is a fee-free checking account, which means there are no hidden fees. There are no monthly maintenance fees, transfer fees, overdraft fees, or foreign transaction fees. It’s also free to access any one of the 38,000 in-network ATMs.
  • Automatic savings. Chime’s “Save When You Spend” feature automatically rounds up transactions to the nearest dollar and auto-transfers the round-up to your savings account, making saving for a rainy day or your dream vacation easier than ever. Want to save even more? Chime gives account-holders the option to automatically transfer a percentage of every paycheck directly into their savings account—which is an ideal feature for independent contractors.
  • Early direct deposit. Chime offers early direct deposit to any account holder who receives direct deposits from their employer or benefits provider. Those enrolled can access their funds up to two days earlier than they would with a traditional, brick-and-mortar financial institution.

High-Yield Chime Savings Account

Chime’s optional High-Yield Savings Account pays an APY of 0.50%—that’s 10 times the national average. You must be a Chime Spending Account-holder to open a savings account. Here are some of the key features associated with Chime’s High-Yield Savings Account:
  • No hidden fees. Similar to the Chime Spending Account, the company’s high-yield savings account is free of hidden fees. This means there’s no minimum balance requirement, no maximums on interest earned.
  • Automatic savings. Chime is on a mission to save you as much money as possible with its built-in Automatic Savings feature. Each time users purchase with their Chime debit card, Chime’s auto-save feature rounds up the transaction and auto-deposits the round-up into their High-Yield Savings Account. Chime account-holders can also choose to automatically transfer a percentage of every paycheck directly into their savings account.
  • Mobile banking. Chime gives users the power to stay on top of their finances via a mobile banking app. There’s no need to log in just to check your balance, either. Chime sends users daily account balance notifications and instant transaction alerts directly to their phones.

Aspiration’s features

Aspiration offers two Spend & Save account options: Aspiration Plus plan and the Pay What Is Fair, standard Aspiration plan. Here are some of the key features associated with Aspiration’s Spend & Save plans:

Aspiration Plus

Aspiration Plus gives users the option to pay a monthly fee of $15 or an annual fee of $150, which drops the monthly charge to $12.50 per month. Here are some key features associated with the Aspiration Plus plan:
  • Unlimited fee-free ATM withdrawals at Allpoint ATMs. Aspiration customers can make fee-free ATM withdrawals at any Allpoint ATM. Users who decide to use a non-Allpoint ATM may be charged a fee. Even so, the Aspiration Plus account reimburses members for one out-of-network ATM charge per month.
  • Environmentally-conscious round-ups. Both the Aspiration Plus and standard Aspiration plan give users the option to opt-in to the Plant Your Change program. Once opted in, each purchase made with an Aspiration debit card or a linked debit or credit card will be rounded up to the nearest whole dollar. For each round-up made, Aspiration will plant one tree via its partnership with the Eden Reforestation Projects. In addition to doing a good deed, Aspiration sends our cash rewards to users who have reached tree-planting milestones. For example, 30 trees planted will get you a $5 reward.
  • Cash back rewards. In addition to providing customers with a cashback reward for Plant Your Change round-ups, Aspiration Plus offers members up to 10% cashback whenever they shop from a Conscience Coalition retailer, which includes brands such as Reformation, TOMS, and Blue Apron.

Aspiration Pay What Is Fair

Aspiration’s Pay What Is Fair plan allows users to pay what they can, even if it is $0. Here are some of the key features associated with Aspiration’s Pay What Is Fair plan:
  • No hidden fees. Aspiration is committed to an “All Extra Services Provided at Cost” model. Aspiration members are not charged for overdrafts, check deposits, inactive accounts, or dormant accounts.
  • Green benefits. Neither the Aspiration Plus plan nor the Aspiration Pay What Is Fair plan use deposits to fund fossil fuel explorations or production. In addition, Aspiration offers all account-holders a unique Aspiration Impact Measurement (AIM) rating. This score provides users with stats on where they shop based on each business’s social and environmental impact.
  • Cash back rewards. Aspiration’s Pay What Is Fair plan offers users 3-5% cashback on Conscience Coalition purchases. While that’s a bit less than what you’d get with an Aspiration Plus account, it’s still a nice perk!

Summary of Chime, Aspiration, and Varo

ChimeAspirationVaro
Monthly Fee$0$15/$0$0
Branches000
ATMs38,00055,00055,000
ATM fees$0/$2.50$0/$2.50$0/$2.50
Note: Under ATM cost, the first figure is for in-house or in-network ATMs. The second is for using out-of-network ATMs.

Costs and fees

Chime

With Chime, there are no fees. Here’s what that means: no monthly account maintenance fee, no minimum balance, no foreign transaction fees, and no overdraft fees. Users also get free access to any one of the 38,000 in-network ATMs.
The only time a Chime account holder will see a fee pop up on their bank account is if they make a cash withdrawal using an out-of-network ATM or make an over-the-counter withdrawal at a bank or credit union. The fee is $2.50.

Aspiration

Aspiration offers two plans, Aspiration Plus and Pay What Is Fair. The basic Pay What Is Fair account allows users to choose their monthly fee, even if it’s $0. If you don’t mind paying a monthly fee, Aspiration Plus is just $15 per month or $150 annually.
Opening an Aspiration account is free, however, users are required to make a $10 minimum deposit to open a checking account.
Aspiration does not charge for ATM transactions made via the Allpoint ATM network. Plus members are granted one out-of-network ATM transaction per month with fees fully reimbursed. What’s more? All Aspiration members can enjoy cashback on debit card purchases from Conscience Coalition retailers.

Varo

Both the Varo Bank Account and the Varo Savings Account are fee-free. Varo doesn’t charge a fee for Allpoint ATM withdrawals (out-of-network withdrawals will cost $2.50 per withdrawal), a minimum balance fee, a monthly maintenance fee, or a foreign transaction fee. There’s also no fee associated with cash deposits at Green Dot Reload @ the Register locations. However, the retailer may charge a fee of up to $4.95 for a deposit via card swipe and up to $5.95 for a MoneyPak, according to the Varo website.
Beginning July 21, 2020, Varo began charging a $25 Express Shipping fee for optional express shipping of replacement debit cards.

Pros and cons

Chime pros and cons

Pros
  • High APY %'s - Chime's HYSA (high-yield savings account) pays 0.50% APY, which is 10x the national average.
  • Automated savings tool - The tool makes saving for a rainy day or an emergency super easy.
  • Expansive ATM network - Chime has more than 38,000 ATMs across two networks.
  • No ATM fees - No fees for ATMs that are in Chime's network.
  • Early direct deposits - Chime offers its users access to their funds up to two days earlier than traditional banks.
  • No-fee paper checks - While Chime doesn't offer physical checkbooks, the company will send paper checks on your behalf at no extra cost.
  • Mobile check deposit - You can deposit checks by simply taking a photo with the app.
Cons
  • No reversal of transfers on the Pay Friends program - The Pay Friends program doesn't allow users to cancel or reverse a transfer to existing Chime members. Users can also only transfer up to $2,000 per calendar month.
  • No physical branches - Similar to other new-age banks, Chime doesn't offer any physical branches.
  • Limit on incoming transfers - Users who'd like to transfer money to Chime from an external bank are limited to $200 transfers per day and $1000 transfers per month. Transferred funds are available in 5 business days.
  • Depositing cash is difficult - Customers can only deposit cash at one of Chime's cash deposit partners.

Aspiration pros and cons

Pros
  • Fee-free account - Aspiration provides a no-fee option that allows users to pay what they think is fair for the basic, no interest Spend & Save plan.
  • High APY %'s - With Aspiration Plus, members will earn up to 1.00% APY.
  • Socially conscious - Aspiration is dedicated to "doing the right thing." You can feel good knowing that your deposits are helping the planet.
  • $100 bonus - Receive a $100 bonus when you spend $1,000 in the first 60 days. Users signing up for Plus can earn up to $150 when they spend $1,000 during the same timeframe.
  • Strong cash-back incentives - Aspiration members receive cash-back on select purchases. Plus members can earn as much as 10% back while Pay What Is Fair members will earn up to 5% back with merchants that part of the Conscience Coalition.
  • Mobile check deposit - You can deposit your check through the mobile app.
Cons
  • Cash-back & high APY requirements - In order to receive high cash-back rates and APY %'s, you must have an Aspiration Plus plan.
  • No physical branches - Like most neobanks, Aspiration doesn't have any physical branches either.
  • Out-of-network ATM fees - If you can't find an Allpoint ATM, using out-of-network ATMs could cost up to $2.50 in fees.
  • Minimum deposit requirement - To open an account, users are asked to make a minimum deposit of $10.
  • No ATM cash deposit processing - Aspiration is unable to process cash deposits at ATMs. Members are asked to purchase a money order, then deposit the money order using the mobile app's check deposit feature.

Varo pros and cons

Pros
  • No minimum balance - You don't need minimum cash requirements to open a Varo bank account.
  • 2 days early direct deposit - Account-holders have the option to receive their direct deposits up to two days earlier via Varo's Early Direct Deposit program.
  • No-fee ATMs - All Varo users are offered fee-free access to Allpoint ATMs.
  • High APY %'s - The Varo savings account comes with an APY of 0.40%, or up to 2.80% for users who meet select requirements.
  • Robust savings tools - Use Save Your Change or Save Your Pay to save easier.
  • Paper check option - You can select the option to send a paper check via the Varo app.
Cons
  • Limited account options - Only two deposit accounts are available.
  • No physical branches - Varo doesn't have any physical branches for you to go to.
  • Checking account requirement - Before opening up a savings you account, Varo customers must open a checking account.
  • No joint account - Varo doesn't allow customers to open up a joint account.

FAQs

Chime

Is Chime FDIC insured?

Yes! All Chime accounts are FDIC insured up to $250,000 through its partner banks, Stride Bank, N.A. or The Bancorp Bank, Members FDIC.

Does Chime charge any fees?

Chime does not charge a sign-up fee, overdraft fee, monthly maintenance or service fee, transaction fee, or card replacement fee. There is only one fee associated with owning a Chime bank account: Chime charges $2.50 for each time a user withdraws cash from an out-of-network ATM or external bank.

When will I receive my Chime Visa Debit Card?

Chime account-holders should receive their Chime Visa Debit Card within five to 10 business days of signing up for a Spending Account. Members who do not receive their card within 10 business days can contact Chime’s Member Services team at support@chime.com.
If you still have questions, the Chime website has a blog and FAQ section that may be able to help you out. There’s also an online Help Center that’s available 24/7, just in case you’re unable to find the answer to your question in the FAQ.

Aspiration

Is Aspiration a legit bank?

Aspiration is not a bank and does not hold a banking license. Even so, your money is safe as the money is held at Aspiration’s partner banks, which are FDIC-insured.

What kind of card does Aspiration provide?

Aspiration issues a recycled-plastic Mastercard to its members.

Does Aspiration offer direct deposit?

Yes! To set up direct deposit, Aspiration members are asked to download a direct deposit form and fill it out through the company’s website. All you need is your routing and account number.

Varo

Is Varo Bank trustworthy?

Yes! Varo Bank is a reputable mobile bank. Varo accounts are FDIC-insured up to $250,000 combined.

How do I deposit cash into Varo?

To deposit cash into a Varo Bank Account, you’ll need to visit a Green Dot location. Varo account-holders can also deposit cash by purchasing a Green Dot MoneyPak.

What ATMs can I use with Varo?

Varo account-holders have fee-free access to more than 55,000 Allpoint ATMs.

The bottom line

Choosing a banking service requires a bit of digging and you’ll need to ask yourself what really matters.
Before you begin browsing, ask yourself questions like: “Am I interested in additional services, or do I need a simple checking account sans bells and whistles?”, “Do I need to be able to make seamless wire transfers or can I use PayPal?” and “Am I focused on budgeting, growing my savings, or both?”
Sure, low fees, fee-free ATMs, and other unique account offers, such as Chime’s SpotMe feature (AKA fee-free overdrafts) or Aspiration’s Plant Your Change program are nice, but in the end, you’ll need to figure out what works for you and your financial situation. Once you’ve decided on the non-negotiables, finding a banking service that fits your budget and lifestyle shouldn’t be too difficult.

Sources:
¹ APY—Annual Percentage Yield The Annual Percentage Yield ("APY") for the Chime Savings Account is variable and may change at any time. The disclosed APY is effective as of December 9, 2020. No minimum balance required. Must have $0.01 in savings to earn interest.
² National Savings Account Interest Rate The average national savings account interest rate of 0.05% is determined by FDIC as of November 30, 2020 based on a simple average of rates paid (uses annual percentage yield) by all insured depository institutions and branches for which data are available. Visit https://www.fdic.gov/regulations/resources/rates/ to learn more.

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