Large investment banks are able to make huge profits by charging users for various services. US-based Aspiration is instead introducing a pay-what-you-like approach to fees.
Aspiration wants to see a move away from the profit-driven fees that investment banks attach to user accounts, instead opting for a ‘Pay What Is Fair’ fee model. In their own words: “We’re confident enough in our products and the honor of our customers to trust you to do the right thing.” The fees function like tips — the user is free to set the management fee they will pay to Aspiration, which can be from zero to as much as the user believes Aspiration deserves. Users can change their fee rate at any time and have it obtained from any source, including linked bank accounts and credit cards. Allowing customers the option to pay zero fees is a risk, but one Aspiration feels is worth taking. Customers are incentivized to pay fees by choosing a charity to receive a proportion of fees paid to Aspiration. Users can also benefit from substantially larger checking account interest rate — at 1 percent over $2 500, more than 10 times the national savings account average.
By offering customers a say in fees, Aspiration is offering consumers a more transparent approach to banking, and allowing users of any income range the chance to invest in businesses they believe in. Successful music site Bandcamp has long enabled this model of name-your-price, letting fans support musicians with whatever amount they see fit. Could other services operate on this basis?