Aspire is the first neobank in Singapore to offer digital business accounts to small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
If you own a startup or SME, their services should pique your interest: Aspire’s value-add is in resolving the pain points many business owners feel when working with local banks, like the need to maintain a minimum balance and marked up foreign exchange rates.
The modern business platform also eliminates paperwork, long waiting times, and the lack of integration that legacy banks often get away with.
In this article, we’ll cover details about Aspire to help you decide if it’s right for your business. We’ll explore:
- What is Aspire and How Does It Work?
- Key Features and Benefits
- Fees and Currency Exchange Rates
- Aspire Business Card, Cashback, and Credit Line
- Rewards from Platform Partners
- Integrations with Third-party Business Software
- Limitations of Aspire
What Is Aspire and How Does It Work?
Aspire is a neobank based in Singapore with teams in Indonesia and Vietnam.
What’s a neobank, you ask? It’s basically a digital bank that operates without physical branches. The low overheads mean they can invest more into solving real problems for entrepreneurs, which leads to greater convenience and cost savings for Aspire business account holders.
This may seem like a novel concept in this region, but Aspire has already raised US$40 million from various investors and serves over 10,000 businesses — including well-known local brands like Circles.Life, HipVan, and TechInAsia.
Clearly, it’s gearing itself up to be a game-changer in fintech.
How Safe is Aspire?
Of course, the lack of a physical bank branch may feel a little sketchy, to say the least.
Here’s some reassurance: Aspire operates under the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) Payment Services Act. If you bank with Aspire, your funds will be kept in a Tier 1 partner bank (specifically, DBS) and insured by the Singapore Deposit Insurance Scheme (SDIC).
In the unlikely event that DBS fails (knock on wood), all your eligible deposits are insured up to a combined S$75,000.
They also use the highest digital encryption and access protocols, so all transactions are secure and only you have access.
How Aspire Works
Unlike with traditional banks, you don’t need to queue for services or submit paperwork for every transaction. Aspire allows you to get everything done online, speeding up processing and approval times. In fact, it takes only five minutes to apply for a new account!
Opening a New Account: To open an Aspire account, simply key in your name, email, and mobile number at the Aspire website to get started. You’ll need a registered business (and be the director of said business) before you can register an account.
Once you’ve submitted the information, you’ll receive an OTP on your mobile phone for verification purposes. From there, you’ll indicate the type of business solutions you require and then go through MyInfo (authentication through SingPass) for the rest of your application and verification.
Voila! Your application is done!
Local and International Payments: Both local and international transfers are free — a big draw considering legacy banks will typically charge you per transfer. Aspire also partners with Wise to offer its users low mid-market FX rates, whereas you’ll pay a markup for the same FX transactions elsewhere.
Read also: 5 Best Money Transfer Apps (2022 Review)
Business Expense Management: You can keep track of business spending in real-time using the Aspire app. It can even sync with accounting software like Quickbooks, eliminating a bit of administrative tedium from your workflow.
Line of Credit: Aspire extends a revolving loan that works like a credit card: you can pay vendors or partners upfront, then pay off the loan once revenue comes in.
Virtual Visa Business Card: Aspire Business account holders get a virtual Visa debit card that earns 1% cashback on marketing. It also lets users spend with Visa rate that’s much lower than what you’ll find with legacy banks.
Key Features and Benefits
Here are key features and benefits worth noting:
|Borderless payments||Easy, fast, and transparent payments locally and internationally|
|Online application and transactions; fast approvals||No need to queue at a physical bank, saving you from long wait times|
|Foreign account opening||The only solution for foreigners who want to set up a business bank account without having to travel to Singapore|
|Issue corporate cards quickly||Onboard team members quickly. Easily track team expenses with real-time notifications|
|Tailor each staff member’s roles and permissions||Greater control of users’ access limits to prevent misuse of funds or company’s account information|
|No minimum deposit||Allows you to make more effective use of funds to build your business|
|No monthly fees||Cost savings that add up over time|
|Free local transfers and competitive mid-market FX rates||More cost savings|
|Earn cashback||1% cashback for all major digital marketing services for businesses, offsetting your operating and marketing costs|
|Partner rewards||Exclusive rewards from platform partners to offset operating and marketing costs|
|Integrates with third-party business software||Easy to automate, improving your efficiency and productivity. You can easily pay invoices, optimise cash flow, and manage bills on one platform|
|Access to the Aspire credit line||Simplify the process of getting additional funds for business expansion|
Fees and Currency Exchange Rates
Are there hidden fees you need to look out for when using Aspire? Let’s do a quick comparison:
|FAST transfers||S$0(until Dec 2021)||S$0.50||S$0||S$0.50|
Aspire’s partnership with Wise means they can offer the lowest mid-market rates across 50+ currencies. These interbank rates mean incoming or outbound foreign transfers with Aspire will always be cheaper than traditional banks, which typically mark up an additional 0.3% to 20%.
Here’s a comparison with three of our local banks:
|Outbound – FX rate||No markup, mid-market rate||0.47% average markup||0.46% average markup||0.48% average markup|
|Outbound – Transfer fee||Low transparent fee||From S$30||From S$35||From S$30|
|Inbound – FX rate||No markup, Reuters buy rates||1.14% average markup||1.59% average markup||1.64% average markup|
|Inbound – Transfer fee||0.5%||S$10||S$10||S$10|
|Visa debit card FX rate||0.7% on Visa rates||3.72%||3.71%||3.73%|
Aspire Business Card, Cashback, and Credit Line
At this point you’ll only have a virtual Aspire Visa debit card to work with, though they promise to offer a physical card soon. These cards allow you to set and freeze team spending limits so you can better manage expenses (and prevent someone from running off with your funds).
Besides the features already mentioned, Aspire virtual debit cards offer:
- No sign-up or annual fee
- Advanced fraud protection
- Add card to mobile wallets, such as Google Pay
Cashback on Digital Card Spend
The Aspire card comes with many perks not available with regular bank cards. Not only do you enjoy low FX rates when making cross-border transactions, but you’re also entitled to 1% cashback on online marketing and SaaS spend, including:
- Facebook Advertising
- Google Advertising
- LinkedIn Advertising
- Amazon Web Services
- Active Campaign
- Google Suite
Check out the full list here. If your preferred merchants are not on the list, you can even nominate them by submitting a request on Aspire’s website.
Aspire Revolving Line of Credit
This is another reason Aspire is a great option for SMEs: getting access to extra working capital is a lot easier. Plus, Aspire also has fewer eligibility requirements and no specific operational or financial requirements, making it very attractive for lean startups.
Best of all, you can secure working capital with 10-20x higher limits in as quickly as 48 hours.
How much? Aspire offers a revolving line of credit of up to S$300,000 with an interest rate between 1% to 3.9% per month and an admin fee of up to 4%.
You only pay interest on what you withdraw, and you save on interest when you repay early. There’s even an option to customise credit solutions for revenue-generating tech companies.
So, who is eligible to apply?
- A business that’s incorporated in Singapore
- Has a minimum 6 months of operations
- Applicant must be a director
Rewards From Platform Partners
With Aspire, you can redeem rewards such as:
- 10% off Microsoft Business standard
- 33% off GoDaddy products
- 90% discount on HubSpot services
- 20% off Shopee ads
- 90% discount on Hubspot and many more
Up to $50,000 in potential rewards makes Aspire an appealing option.
Integrations With Top Business Software
No more manually checking bank statements, invoices, and your accounting books. Aspire integrates directly with many third-party business software, so you can set up automation to save you work.
Here are the three main types of software Aspire integrates with:
Accounting – SAP, Xero, QuickBooks, MYOB and NetSuite
E-commerce payment processing – Receive payouts directly into your Aspire account via online partners such as Shopify, Shopee, Lazada, Stripe and Paypal. Aspire can also gather business insights and payment details for data analysis
Mobile wallets – Your Aspire card can connect with Google Pay and Apple Pay (in the near future) to make payments on the move. The Aspire card is one of the first business cards to integrate with Google Pay and offer mid-market exchange rates
Limitations of Aspire
While there are many upsides to having an Aspire account, it does have a few flaws you may want to take note of:
- No ATM withdrawals or cheque deposits. This isn’t as big a deal for digital businesses, but it’s inconvenient if your business relies a lot on cash and cheques.
- You can’t register your business UEN for PayNow. This is in the pipeline for the future, but the lack of this option may affect businesses reliant on PayNow.
Inspiring Businesses to Achieve More
Given that we’re now in a digital economy, neobanks like Aspire will soon become the cornerstone that will reshape traditional banking. In sum, the Aspire business account could be an ideal option for:
- Businesses that need a bank account that can seamlessly integrate with their operations
- Businesses that have significant digital spend and see value in working with partners in the rewards list
- Businesses that deal regularly with foreign payables and receivables
Edit 1 March 2022: This article has been updated to reflect that SDIC insures eligible deposits up to a combined S$75,000.