Money at 30: Ando Bank Review
If you’re a long-time follower of my column, you’ve probably seen me discuss the digital banking account Aspiration before. While I was pleased with how that account balanced an environmental message and being a solid banking product at first, things went downhill quickly as the latter elements suffered significantly. That’s why I was excited to discover another green-centric banking option in Ando.
So what does Ando have to offer and does it pick up where Aspiration (in my view) left off? Let’s take a closer look at their accounts.
UPDATE: Ando has announced that they will shut down on November 4th, 2022. Below is my original review.
Ando Review: How Does it Work and What Does it Offer?
What is Ando?
Ando is a digital banking platform that bills itself as “sustainable banking.” According to their site, “Ando invests your money exclusively in green initiatives like renewable energy and responsible agriculture, and that means you can potentially have 27 times the impact of other environmental actions…more than putting solar panels on your roof, taking shorter showers, or going vegan.” Basically, the idea is that, instead of keeping your money with big banks that may invest in industries and corporations you don’t believe in, banking with Ando will help them support green projects. At the same time, the services they offer to consumers come without many of the fees some banks charge, making it easier to switch.
Since Ando is not a bank of its own, it partners with a bank in order to offer FDIC insurance. In this case, accounts are provided by Community Federal Savings Bank. Therefore, funds are FDIC insured up to $250,000 per depositor.
Opening your account
To get started with Ando, you’ll first need to apply — which does require some personal information. This includes your address, date of birth, Social Security number, etc. In all, the process should only take a few minutes. Once your account is open, you can securely link an external account via Plaid in order to transfer funds.
In the Ando app, you’ll see four main tabs: Home, Manage, Pay Friends, and Impact. Considering Ando’s environmental bent, that last one is perhaps the most interesting. On this tab, you’ll currently see a running total of how many pounds of CO2 Ando users have collectively reduced along with how much money in green loans Ando has funded thanks in part to Ando users (right now, that latter figure is over $12 million). Further down the tab, you’ll find featured and recent stories related to Ando, their partners, and others in regards to how they’re helping to fight climate change.
Then we get down to Your Impact, Your Allocations, and Your Influence. Starting with Your Impact, here it will show you how many pounds of CO2 you’ve helped reduce. Interestingly, though, this number corresponds purely to how many people you’ve referred to the platform. While that makes some sense if the idea is to move money away from big banks and what they invest in, it still strikes me as a strange metric nonetheless. Skipping to Your Influence, that is also purely referral-based. Lastly, Your Allocations isn’t something you can actually adjust yourself but shows where Ando’s investments are as well as where they want to be.
Honestly, this tab is where I think Ando could do the most growing. Although there’s some good stuff to be found, it feels very surface level at the moment. Hopefully we see some evolution on this front in the future.
Since Ando does put such an emphasis on referring friends, let’s talk about this. In addition to the environmental benefits Ando notes in regards to bringing friends to the platform, there’s also some financial incentive. Currently, when Ando users share their link with friends, they’ll each earn up to $15. On top of that, as you’ll see later, referrals can also help boost your APY. If you’re interested, you can also feel free to use my Ando referral link.
Checking account features
When you open an Ando checking account, you’ll be sent a Visa debit card in the mail. The card itself has a pretty basic design and a pretty ugly Visa logo on it. It also doesn’t seem to have tap technology but does have a chip. Overall, it’s not exactly my favorite debit card but it works.
With your Ando debit card, you can access more than 34,000 fee-free ATMs that are part of the MoneyPass network. While this is a bit smaller than the Allpoint network that’s popular among digital banking accounts, I personally prefer MoneyPass just based on my local availability. Meanwhile, if you use an out-of-network ATM, Ando will charge a $2.95 fee on top of whatever fee the ATM operator imposes.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the main tabs in Ando is Pay Friends. Just as the name implies, this option makes it easy to send P2P payments. When you give Ando access to your contacts, it will automatically show you which of your friends already have accounts, allowing you to send them funds accompanied by customized notes. However, even if your friend doesn’t yet have Ando, you can send them funds that can then be claimed by opening an account. Note that funds sent to those without accounts will expire after 14 days if not claimed before that.
Like with many digital banking accounts, Ando now allows you to directly deposit your payroll checks but also advises that you could get your funds up to two days early under this arrangement. However, keep in mind that the availability of funds will depend on how your employer handles their payroll. Still, this could be a convenient option — and, as we’ll discuss, could bring about other banking benefits.
Should you wish to deposit cash into your Ando account, you can do so via Green Dot. For those unfamiliar, Green Dot is a service available at select 7-Eleven, CVS, Dollar General, Walgreens, and other locations. Ando doesn’t provide many details other than stating that you can “directly deposit money at major retailers near you,” but typically you’ll need to have your debit card and the cash you’d like to add to it. Unfortunately, there is also usually a fee associated with this, so it may not be the best option. That’s probably why, even on the “deposit cash” tab, Ando mentions that linking a bank account is a better route to take if possible.
Finally, if you find yourself with a paper check, the good news is that Ando does make it possible to deposit checks via your mobile device. The slight downside is that this feature is made available through a partnership with Ingo Money. As I’ve mentioned previously, Ingo is a third-party service that, while offering free check deposits with a 10-day turnaround, charges a fee for quicker deposits. However, in their app, Ando states that they’ll cover the fees — although I didn’t try it myself. If that’s the case, then this is actually a pretty strong feature. But, either way, at least it’s an option.
Boosting your APY (Grow Your Savings)
By default, your Ando Savings account will currently earn 0.17% APY. That’s a bit better than the national average but is still well below what some digital accounts still offer. That said, Ando does allow customers to earn up to an impressive 5% APY by completing a few steps.
First, to take your APY from 0.17% to 1% for the month, you’ll need to enroll in direct deposit and receive at least $500 a month via these deposits. Additionally, you’ll need to make at least five Ando debit card transactions per month. Honestly, these requirements are pretty reasonable compared to some other platforms and 1% APY is fairly solid by today’s standards.
As for how you take your APY from that 1% to 5%, that involves referring new customers. If you refer two friends who then become active members, you’ll earn 2% APY for a month. Referring three friends gets you 3%, four gets your 4%, and (you guessed it), referring five friends will allow you to earn that 5% APY.
It should be noted that all of these enhanced rates only apply to balances of up to $5,000. Additionally, while it seems as though these boosts only apply for a month, it’s a bit ambiguous and I’m also not sure if the referrals need to be in the same month. I guess just hope for the best and see what happens — either way, the 1% APY is likely worth pursuing, making the referral boosts all gravy.
Count the Change
Another feature in Ando’s Saving accounts the option to automatically set aside savings. Dubbed “Count the Change,” this feature is essentially a round-ups option that will automatically transfer the spare change from your debit card transactions. For example, if you spent $4.50 on your card and had Count the Change enabled, you’d see $5 deducted from your Checking and $0.50 would be deposited in savings.
While I’m a big fan of such features overall, this is one area where I think Ando’s environmental side could shine more. Aspiration actually has a program called Plant Your Change that does the same thing but sees the funds go towards planting trees. I’m not saying that Ando should copy this per se, but perhaps there could be other options for where the change is directed in the future. Until then, this is still an easy way to help you set money aside.
Final Thoughts on Ando
After spending a bit of time exploring Ando, I find myself appreciating the account overall. Yet, despite the stories of projects and allusions to impact (including their site mentioning “unprecedented access and insights to know exactly how you’re helping to save the planet.”), it’s not always 100% clear how banking with Ando helps the environment. Nevertheless, I do think that the offering has potential and could be more effective with some massaged messaging.
In comparison to fellow environment-friendly digital banking platform Aspiration, Ando does several things right in my book. First, the way you increase your APY with Ando seems much fairer than what is required with Aspiration (starting with the fact that the paid service Aspiration Plus is required to earn any interest). Second, while I admittedly haven’t had an Ando account for very long, they also haven’t repeatedly made major negative changes the way Aspiration has during my tenure. On the other hand, I do think Ando could take a page from some of Aspiration’s more specific environmental features and tie-ins that would really help sell the concept of the account.
Overall, Ando is a solid digital banking option that I could definitely see growing into something special. So, if you’re looking to move your money in a bid to have your banking habit match your morals and ethics, Ando may be a good option.
Also published on Medium.