Acorns vs. Stash [An In-Depth Comparison]

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When it comes to investing, utilizing the best apps makes it easier and far more manageable. The issue some newbie investors face is not knowing how to determine which app works best for them. In this post, we’re going to compare Acorns vs. Stash to see what’s best for your needs.

Acorns and Stash are both oriented toward the beginner investor market, with similar features and stark differences. They are both designed to allow their users to invest in a taxable brokerage account. Both include services such as an individual retirement account (IRA) and an integrated checking bank account.

The Acorns stock app is designed to make the investing process effortless, stress-free, and automated by taking full control of the investment portfolios.

On the other hand, the Stash investing app is a similar personal investment app but comes with added freedom to allow users to make their own investment choices, increasing risk and sometimes stress levels.

Below is a breakdown of both apps to give you a better look into how they work and what they offer.

Acorns App Summary

  • Account Minimum Balance: Open Account = $0 and Investment Minimum = $5.
  • Monthly Service Fee: Personal = $1-$3/monthly. Family = $5/month.
  • Free Service for College Students: No
  • Robo Advisor:  Yes, for all accounts, and it’s free.
  • Human Advisor: No
  • Investment Expense Ratio: 0.05%-0.18%
  • Traditional IRA: Yes for $3.00 monthly
  • SEP IRA: Yes for $3.00 monthly
  • Roth IRA: Yes for $3.00 monthly
  • Quarterly Rebalancing: $1.00
  • Cashback Shopping Portal: $1.00
  • Automatic Rebalancing: Yes, and it’s free for all accounts.
  • Functionality Options: Round-Ups/One-Time/Withdraw
  • Investment Choice: No, there is no option to pick your preferred investments.
  • Separate Bank Account: Yes, a checking account that does not require a minimum balance.
  • Bank Account With Debit Card: Yes for $3.00 monthly.
  • Bank/Debit Card: Yes
  • Socially Responsible Options: ESG (environmental, social, and governance) portfolios available.
  • Customer Service: Yes. 9:00 am-5:00 pm PT. 7 days a week.

Acorns Breakdown

Acorns is a relatively veteran app that has been available since 2014 for download on all devices. It is best known as an app for aspiring newbie investors who struggle to save for investments.

Round-ups is one of their most attractive features for beginner investors, and it is designed to invest your spare change into the stock market. Suppose you purchase an item at Best Buy for $28.15. Acorns will round up that purchase to the nearest dollar value, in this case,  $29, and will invest the $0.85 into your investment account.

Essentially it forces its users to invest with every consumer purchase they make. 

If you’d like to sign up for Acorns, be sure to use this link to redeem a $10 bonus!

Their automated investment option is what appeals most to new investors. Users can connect their bank account or pay for an Acorns checking account to set up automatic transfers at a frequency of their choice (daily, weekly or monthly). They have the option to cancel the automated transfers at any time.

One of Acorn’s downsides is the complete lack of control to pick investment assets such as ETFs and stocks. Most investors enjoy picking their preferred assets.

The idea behind this is that the app is designed for newbie investors who find investments boring or lack investment knowledge and prefer the work to be done for them.

Attractive add-ons include the Acorns Early account, designed specifically for kids, and the Acorns Later account, intended for retirement investing.

Lastly, customer support via phone, chat, and email is available for any inquiries and concerns. 

Pros and Cons of Using Acorns

The Pros

  • You can redeem a $10 bonus just for signing up.
  • Their Round-Ups option is one of their best features as it forces investing every time users go shopping.
  • The Acorns Early account for parents who want to introduce investing at a young age.
  • Userfriendly app with convenient banking integration.
  • There is no need to do investment research as the investment portfolios are set at a risk level based on your stated risk tolerance.
  • Automatic Rebalancing.
  • Access to IRA investing.
  • Socially responsible ESG portfolios available.

Pros and Cons of Using Acorns

The Cons

  • The lack of control over ETFs and stocks investment accounts.
  • There is no tax strategy available which can be problematic for investors who lack knowledge in this area.
  • There is no human advisor option, which makes the investing process more time consuming.
  • If you’re only taking advantage of the Round-Ups option, the underlying ETF and monthly service fees can become costly.

Stash Summary

  • Account Minimum Balance: Open Account = $0 / Investment Minimum = $5.
  • Monthly Service Fee: Personal = $1-$9/monthly. $3 for monthly automated.
  • Free Service for College Students: No
  • Robo Advisor:  Yes, for all accounts, and it’s free.
  • Human Advisor: No
  • Investment Expense Ratio: 0.05%-0.18%
  • Traditional IRA: Yes for $3.00 monthly
  • SEP IRA: No
  • Roth IRA: Yes for $3.00 monthly
  • Quarterly Rebalancing: $3.00
  • Cashback Shopping Portal: No
  • Automatic Rebalancing: Yes, and it’s free for all accounts.
  • Functionality Options: Round-Ups/One-Time/Withdraw
  • Investment Choice: No, there is no option to pick your preferred investments.
  • Separate Bank Account: Yes, a checking account that does not require a minimum balance.
  • Bank Account With Debit Card: Yes for $1.00 monthly.
  • Socially Responsible Options: ETFs.
  • Customer Service: Yes. 8:30 am-6:30 pm ET.  Monday to Friday.

Stash Breakdown

Stash is a relatively newer app that has been available for download since 2016 on all devices. It also has a convenient Round-Up option in its Auto-Stash feature.

The most significant feature compared to Acorns is that it allows users to choose their ETF and stock market investments, making it an app suitable for more advanced and knowledgeable investors.

Your investments are based entirely on your predetermined risk tolerance, and a portfolio is created out of your preferences, giving all investors a hands-on approach. Additionally, investors have access to Traditional and Roth IRAs, making your various investment needs accessible on one app.

Two separate life insurance policy options are available at a low cost of either $1.00 or $9.00 a month. Stash’s premium education resources also offer useful, up-to-date investing news to guide users.

Like Acorns, Stash offers child accounts for parents seeking to start kids early on investments.  Customer support via phone, chat, and email is available for any inquiries and concerns. 

Pros and Cons of Using Stash

The Pros

  • Their Round-Up option is an excellent feature as it forces investing to occur every time a user goes shopping.
  • Kids’ accounts are available for parents who want to introduce investing at a young age.
  • Userfriendly app with convenient banking integration.
  • Complete control over investments.
  • Life insurance policies for a small fee.
  • Automatic Rebalancing.
  • Robo investing option makes it a seamless experience for users.
  • Access to Traditional and Roth IRAs.
  • Socially responsible ETF portfolios are available for a small fee.

Pros and Cons of Using Stash

The Cons

  • There is no tax strategy available which can be problematic for investors who lack knowledge in this area.
  • No human advisors available to make the investing process a little easier for beginner investors.
  • If users maintain a low investment balance, the underlying ETF monthly service fees and expense ratios may not be worth it. The monthly fee alone for the kids’ account is $9 for up to two children,  which can be hefty if your investment balance is low. If say, your total balance is $5,000, that’s almost a 2% management fee in itself. Of course, this fee percentage improves as your balance grows over time.

Acorns vs. Stash: Which is Better?

AcornsStash
Account Minimum Balance:Open Account = $0
Investment Minimum = $5
Open Account = $0
Investment Minimum = $5
Monthly Service Fee:Personal = $1-$3/monthly
Family = $5/month
$1-$9/monthly
$3 for monthly automated
Free Service for College Students:NoNo
Robo Advisor:Yes, for all accounts, and it’s freeYes, for all accounts, and it’s free
Human Advisor: NoNo
Investment Expense Ratio: 0.05%-0.18%0.05%-0.18%
Traditional IRA: Yes for $3.00 monthlyYes for $3.00 monthly
SEP IRA: Yes for $3.00 monthlyNo
Roth IRA: Yes for $3.00 monthlyYes for $3.00 monthly
Quarterly Rebalancing: $1.00$3.00
Cashback Shopping Portal: $1.00No
Automatic Rebalancing: Yes, and it’s free for all accounts.Yes, and it’s free for all accounts.
Functionality Options: Round-Ups/One-Time/Withdraw Round-Ups/One-Time/Withdraw
Investment Choice: No, there is no option to pick your preferred investments.No, there is no option to pick your preferred investments.
Separate Bank Account: Yes, a checking account that does not require a minimum balance.Yes, a checking account that does not require a minimum balance.
Bank Account With Debit Card: Yes for $3.00 monthlyYes for $1.00 monthly
Bank/Debit Card: YesNo
Socially Responsible Options: ESG (environmental, social, and governance) portfolios available.ETFs.
Customer Service: 9:00 am-5:00 pm PT
7 days a week
8:30 am-6:30 pm ET
Monday to Friday

Like all comparisons, deciding which is better boils down to preference and customer goals. They are both highly-rated apps but with a few stark differences.

Acorns vs. Stash: Portfolio Control vs. Automation

One of the most significant selling points for Stash is the app’s flexibility in allowing its users to have complete control over their investment portfolios.

As detailed above, Acorns completely controls the user’s investment portfolio, aside from allowing them to choose among the five pre-set portfolios.

Both apps are designed to appeal to beginner investors. Still, with Acorns, users don’t need to stress over researching profitable assets since Acorns does the heavy lifting for you in terms of asset decisions.

Personally, I’m all about as much automation in life as possible, so Acorns wins this one.

Acorns vs. Stash: Educational Resources

Both Acorns and Stash offer fundamental financial education resources for $1.00 monthly. Stash has a leg-up with its premium plan for $9.00 monthly, which makes sense since the app is designed to give its users complete control over their investments.

While this fee can be perceived as hefty, it does engage the user in continuous learning when it comes to investing.

Stash has the edge here if you’re willing to pay for it.

Acorns vs. Stash: Life Insurance

Another benefit Stash has over Acorns is their Life Insurance policy option.

The basic plan offers $1,000 worth of life insurance at a standard rate of $1.00 a month.

The premium plan offers $10,000 worth of life insurance at a premium rate of $9.00 a month.

While it is common for insurance holders to seek a private insurance company with much larger premiums, many prefer to amalgamate all their investments in one portfolio; therefore, this add-on will undoubtedly appeal to a specific user.

I don’t think either really has an advantage here. Both Stash and Acorns are offering policies with fees that are quite moderate and inexpensive.

Acorns vs. Stash: Referral Programs

Both apps offer a referral program priced at $1.00 a month with a $5 reimbursement for every one person referred, with seasonal or temporary promotional increases.

Also, Acorns offers a $10 sign-up bonus with this link.

Shoppers and service users love a service that pays them with points or a referral program, so this is a bonus for both Acorns and Stash.

Overall Picks

Overall, Acorns is best for newbie investors. Their plans are seamless and quick to set up. The user doesn’t need to choose their investments or risk level; instead, Acorns does this for them.

The only responsibility of the user is to deposit money into their investment account; it’s that easy. Banking integration comes at a small fee, making the app a one-stop shop.

For the control-oriented investor, Stash is definitely the better option. It’s designed to hand over control to the user to pick their stocks and ETFs.

Additionally, their premium educational resources go hand-in-hand with investors who prefer to do their own research before investing. Like Acorns, the banking integration option comes at a small fee but is well worth the experience.