Aspiration Plants Seed for a Climate-Friendly Rewards Card

Person plants a young tree in the ground.
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The financial product information on this page is accurate as of the time of posting; some of the offers mentioned may have expired since that time.

The first climate change-focused rewards credit card was announced Wednesday by online financial firm Aspiration, which promises users a planted tree for each swipe and cash-back rewards for those who attain carbon-neutral status each month. 

Every time the new card—Aspiration Zero—is used, Aspiration will plant a tree to help offset the cardholder's carbon footprint. That’s a measure of the amount of greenhouse gases—including carbon monoxide and methane—created by human (and industrial) activity. If a consumer reaches “carbon zero,” by offsetting the average American’s carbon footprint, Aspiration will offer up to 1% cash back on all their purchases, which can be redeemed for traditional cash back or used to plant still more trees.

This new credit card is the latest financial product from Aspiration, which offers consumers money management tools, such as sustainable investing and deposit accounts that don’t fund fossil fuel production. Its Aspiration Zero card program is the first to offer a rewards program based around environmental sustainability, and also answers growing consumer demand for more transparent, eco-conscious products. 

“Consumers want to feel good about the decisions they make, and banks and card issuers are honing in on that,” said David Shipper, a senior analyst for market researcher Aite Group who focuses on payment cards. “Whether it’s a legacy bank, credit union, or fintech, I think we will see more issuers head this way and back up their actions with actual evidence of changes.” 

Instead of metal or a more traditional plastic card, the Aspiration Zero card will also be partially made out of sustainable materials: 84% field corn and 16% plastic, to be exact. 

To reach carbon zero and earn a little cash back on all purchases, Aspiration Zero cardholders will need to use their card at least 60 times each month, or 30 times if they opt in to what Aspiration calls “Plant Your Change.” Plant Your Change will round up each transaction to the nearest whole dollar and the extra change will be used to plant at least one more tree. Consumers will be able to track their progress toward the monthly carbon zero goal through the Aspiration app.

“We have built the credit card experience around rewarding having a positive impact on the climate crisis, rather than a negative one,” Aspiration co-founder and CEO Andrei Cherny told The Balance.

Aspiration says the trees will be planted by its reforestation partners in Brazil, Honduras, Kenya, Madagascar, and the United States. 

The 1% back feature of the Aspiration Zero card is easily dwarfed by other cash-back cards advertising two or three times that amount back on some purchases, but the unusual proposition of this niche card may speak to an audience interested in bigger-picture rewards. 

The Aspiration Zero card isn’t open for applications yet, but that should come in the next couple of months, according to Cherny. For now, interested consumers can add their name to a waitlist. Those on the waitlist will receive more information about the card closer to the official launch date, including important details such as interest rates and fees.