Acorns vs. Stash – Which Is Better?

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A pair of micro-investment applications has hit the investment universe in the past couple of years. Acorns and Stash Invest are smartphone-based investment apps that enable you to save and invest very small amounts of money. They then offer professional investment management to help you invest and grow your portfolio. Here's our Acorns vs Stash Invest comparison.

So, who's better?

It is a close race between the two, but Acorns has a slight edge. While Stash Invest has some neat features individuals might prefer, we recommend Acorns for its simplicity and ease of use for beginning investors. If you are somewhat more down the path of investing and want more flexibility, then choose Stash Invest .

But you won't go wrong with either service if you are just starting to invest and want to get on the path of saving for future goals.

About Acorns and Stash Invest

 Stash Invest ReviewAcorns Review
Rating8.5/108.5/10
Minimum to Open Account$0$0
FeesBeginner Plan: $1/month; Growth Plan: $3/month; Stash+ Plan: $9/month$3 a month for the Personal Plan; $5 a month for the Family plan.
Taxable Accounts
ETFs
Socially Responsible Investing
AdviceAutomatedAutomated
Individual Stocks

About Acorns

Acorns bills itself as the first mobile investment application that lets you open an account on your smartphone. Acorns will literally allow you to invest your “spare change.” You do this by connecting your mobile phone to your bank accounts and credit cards, and the application will automatically invest your change. There is no limit to the number of accounts and credit cards you can link.

That change is small amounts of money, often less than a dollar, that is adding to your Acorns investment account each time you make a purchase. For example, let’s say you purchase a latte at Starbucks for $4.25. The purchase will be rounded up to $5, and 75¢ of that will automatically go into your investment account. In that way, small amounts will be invested for each purchase, enabling you to save money without even noticing it's happening.

Acorns refer to this as Round-Ups, because the amount of your purchases is rounded up to the next increment. You can round up to the nearest dollar or choose a higher amount so your investment growth will happen even faster. You can also set scheduled investment deposits, occur daily, weekly or monthly.

About Stash Invest

Stash Invest is an automated investment app. There's no required investment minimum, which makes it a micro-savings application. Unlike Acorns, which actually does the investing for you, Stash Invest simply makes investment recommendations, leaving it up to you to do the actual investing.

Your investment portfolio can be a combination of investment themes, which are comprised of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) set in an asset allocation that is consistent with the chosen theme. They give those themes creative names such as “Defending America” and “Delicious Dividends.”

Stash Invest is available for iOS and Android and can be downloaded in minutes. You will link the app to your bank account, enabling you to move money back and forth between the app and the bank account. You can link only a single bank account to the app. You can now also access Stash on the web using your desktop or laptop computer.

TIE — Acorns and Stash Invest are both winners with no required minimums

Features Both Acorns and Stash Offer

  • Both applications enable you to invest very small amounts of money. In doing so, you can accumulate an investment portfolio without even knowing you're doing it.
  • Both also enable you to invest additional amounts, so you can fast-forward your investment progress.
  • Both are also available as mobile apps, which means you can invest on the go.
  • Both offer investment management, though Stash Invest is more democratic in this regard.
  • Neither requires a minimum deposit.
  • And of course, they have identical fee structures.

Features Unique to Acorns

  • Web Access — With Acorns you can not only access your account via an app on your mobile device but via their website as well.
  • Acorns Earn — Save money on items you purchase. Acorns is partnered with more than 12,000 brands including more than 350 top brands.

Features Unique to Stash

  • More Flexibility Investing — In addition to accepting investment recommendations from Stash Invest, you can supplement your portfolio with your own investment choices. This will provide you with more investment options.
  • Auto-Stash – Put your investments on auto-pilot and automatically invest in the things you like every week or month.
  • Stash Learn – Through the app and the website, Stash provides financial education to help teach new investors the basics so they can do it themselves.

Portfolios

Acorns

When you open up your Acorns account, you will be asked to provide personal financial information. This information will be used as the basis to create a recommended portfolio for you.

The platform allows you to choose different investing goals, including long-term investments, short-term investments, a major purchase, children or general. Based on those goals and your financial information, your portfolio will be constructed around your risk tolerance, as follows:

  • Conservative
  • Moderate Conservative
  • Moderate
  • Moderately Aggressive
  • Aggressive

You can then choose the asset class you want to invest in, which will be represented by a corresponding exchange-traded fund. Your Acorns portfolio is constructed from just six ETFs that represent most of the global investment universe.

This is what is known as modern portfolio theory, or MPT. This theory holds that asset allocation is more important to investment success than individual security selection. Since your portfolio will include the six most important asset classes, the related ETF, being based on an asset class index, represents a broad diversification into stocks and securities in each class. Read more about Acorns Investments Portfolios.

Stash Invest

As with Acorns, you complete a risk tolerance questionnaire for Stash Invest. From there, they give you a list of investment options to choose from. The advantage here is you also have the option to add investments of your own choice to the mix. This is a departure from most robo-advisors, including Acorns.

Your risk tolerance is determined based on your age, your investment goals, and your time horizon. You will be evaluated as conservative, moderate or aggressive, and investment recommendations will be consistent with that risk tolerance level. You will be given a choice of 30+ investment themes that match your risk level.

Where Acorns limits investments to just six ETFs, Stash Invest takes advantage of over 30 ETFs. Stash Invest has much more flexibility. The app also lets you invest in more than 70 single stocks, as well.

Winner — Stash Invest

Annual Fees

Acorns charge $1 per month for their starting plan, Acorns Lite. There are no commissions when you purchase shares in ETFs. If you wish to partake in Acorns' new retirement savings program, Acorns Later, you will be charged another $2 per month for the upgraded Acorns Personal plan. They also have an Acorns Family plan that includes investment options for children at $5 per month.

Stash Invest is currently offering the service free for the first month. After that, the fee is $1 per month for account balances under $5,000. Balances of $5,000 or more are subject to an annual fee of 0.25% of your balance.

Acorns is a better deal when it comes to accounts with less than $1 million.

Winner — Acorns

Accessibility

Both apps are available for iOS and Android smartphones, so you can access your account wherever you have connectivity. Both apps began as mobile-only products. However, they both now offer web access. This means you also have the full functionality of the apps on your desktop or laptop computer.

TIE — Acorns and Stash Invest are equal when it comes to accessibility

Minimum Deposit

Neither Acorns nor Stash requires a minimum deposit to open an account or invest.


Which Is Better?

Our best guess is that if you are a new investor, it wouldn't be a mistake to go with either of these apps. Though there are better robo-advisors with cheaper annual fees available.

Disclaimer - Paid non-client endorsement. See Apple App Store and Google Play reviews. View important disclosures.

Investment advisory services offered by Stash Investments LLC, an SEC registered investment adviser. This material has been distributed for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended as investment, legal, accounting, or tax advice. Investing involves risk.

¹For securities priced over $1,000, purchase of fractional shares start at $0.05.

²Debit Account Services provided by Green Dot Bank, Member FDIC and Stash Visa Debit Card issued by Green Dot Bank, Member FDIC. pursuant to a license from VISA U.S.A. Inc. Investment products and services provided by Stash Investments LLC, not Green Dot Bank, and are Not FDIC Insured, Not Bank Guaranteed, and May Lose Value.” because the article mentions the debit card.

³You’ll also bear the standard fees and expenses reflected in the pricing of the ETFs in your account, plus fees for various ancillary services charged by Stash and the custodian.

⁴Other fees apply to the debit account. Please see Deposit Account Agreement for details.

⁵Stock-Back® is not sponsored or endorsed by Green Dot Bank, Green Dot Corporation, Visa U.S.A, or any of their respective affiliates, and none of the foregoing has any responsibility to fulfill any stock rewards earned through this program.

Kevin Mercadante

Kevin Mercadante is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, OutOfYourRut.com. He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two teenage kids.

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38 Comments

  1. The only thing I found is that Acorn never answers any emails you send them. If you are unsure of something that is happening with your account? Close it out and take your money to a real broker. Use cash and invest in a piggy bank so you can still accumulate change.

  2. I’ve used both, and I think I can sum it up as this:

    Acorns Pros: Simple and elegant interface, Easy to use, Good blend of etfs.
    Acorns Cons: Little choice, Spare change can be a trap, No monthly statement

    You really can’t go wrong, on Acorn, even as a beginner. The portfolios all seem pretty good and diversified with quality etfs. However, the caveat is you can’t just depend on spare change to fund your investments. 1 dollar a month is no joke when you have so little money invested, and spare change amounts to, well, spare change levels cash. You’ll absolutely want to fund it with a recurring investment, and a solid start of at least 300-500 bucks or the monthly fee will kill any gains. Also, I don’t like how there’s no monthly statement that summarizes how much I’ve invested or earned from dividends. There is a transaction history, but it doesn’t add everything up for you in a digestible format.

    Stash Pros: Much more choice, Interesting etf choices, Can invest in some expensive company stocks
    Stash Cons: More choice can be a trap, Cluttered interface, Weird naming scheme

    Stash gives you much more control over your portfolio. This can be a double edged sword for beginners, because it can lead to a less diversified portfolio. However, Stash doesn’t push the spare change gimmick, so newbies won’t get trapped thinking they are making any reasonable gains with just investing a few cents a day. Stash also gives you the ability invest in expensive companies like Amazon, Google, and Coke that newbie investors normally won’t have access to, just because of the sheer price of the stock. That is very cool. Stash also has fun etf’s to choose like Green Power, IT, etc. The weird names Stash has for its etf’s is a con for me just because it feels like it’s coddling me as if I can’t understand what an etf does from it’s real name. But it’s not a big deal, and might help newbies.

    In the end, though, the app I use most is Robinhood. I think microinvesting is a very cool starting point. Having direct control over your portfolio is just so much more powerful. That said, I do have some money invested in Acorns as a deposit-and-forget deal. I just auto-invest some money every week hassle-free and can trust it’s going to be a good investment. However, if I didn’t use Robinhood, I’d definitely prefer Stash for the better choices.

  3. I didn’t see anything in reference to redemption fees in your article…is there a limit to the length of time that you must be “in” the security before you can redeemor get out, and what is the cost to cash out?

  4. Say I sign up for one or the other and after a time am not happy with the results.
    Can I pull out at any time?
    Is there a penalty of some kind?

    1. I really don’t understand a lot of this I don’t have much money wanting to think of a way to get money,I am 63 years old.

  5. I have accounts with both. Like STASH better. Like interface much better. Difficult for me to see what Acorns investments consist of, ie what REIT’s are included in my moderately aggressive portfolio. Also, unable to use Acorns found money offering due to credit union cyber security 2 layer login.

  6. FYI, under Features Unique to Acorn, you list Web Access. Under Feature Comparison, you show No Web Site Access for Stash. Under Accessibility, you say “out of luck” for web browser access in Stash. Yet under Features Unique to Stash > Stash Learn, you state, “Through the app and the website”. Thought you might want to be aware of the conflicting info.

    1. Hi bk,

      “Through the app and the website” That is for Stash Learn ONLY. You cannot make trades with Stash via their website. Whereas Acorns you can. That is what is meant about website access.

  7. Trying out both services. An error I noticed in this write-up – while Stash has a $5 minimum deposit, Acorns waits till our roundsups total $5 to transfer from your CHecking to the Acorns account. FYI

    1. Hi Great question and consider them different audiences. Betterment they pretty much control the investing, whereas Stash Invest you have much more flexibility. Betterment have IRA accounts whereas Stash does not.

  8. I’m wondering why anyone would use these vs putting money in roth? I’ve gone over this in my head many times and I feel like I’m missing the boat. It’s post tax income that’s going in. Thanks for the help

    1. Good question. I am not a millennial but I suck at saving money. Acorns just takes the pennies I would have otherwise spent and puts it in my Acorns account. I have since doubled my Acorns roundups and I put an extra $50 a week on top. I wish they had this 20 years ago because I am sure I would have a paid off house, but oh well. If you are lazy but want/need to save money than Acorns is the way to go. I have a moderately aggressive account, but you can go conservative if loss of principal is a concern (you can still lose money but the risk is nil.)

    2. My son uses it. I believe its for the simple fact you don’t have to pay a bill or send anyone payment or save money to invest. It is automatically taking money out of your account every time you spend money Therefore, if you are not a good saver, this is money you essentially don’t miss as it rounds ups each purchase to the whole dollar and uses the change to invest.

    3. Couple things: 1) Young people may not be sophisticated enough to care about the tax advantages of IRAs – investigating their merits can be confusing and time-consuming. 2) IRAs have a $6000 per year cap as of 2019. 3) Acorns does have IRA options which they call “Acorns Later”. You pay $2 per month instead of $1. I assume their offerings include or totally consist of Roth IRAs.

  9. I love acorns mostly because there aren’t any annual fees for students. I’ve also racked up a lot of money from the “found money” feature.

  10. Lost tons of Money with Acorns over a years time, even tried running on “conservative” and still lost money. Wouldn’t recommend. Might try Stash.

    1. A year really isn’t much of a time frame for investing. I’m no expert, but when I looked at my 401k I noticed most all of my funds had a very small return on 1 year, but over the course of five years the roi went up quite a bit.

      I don’t think a year is enough time to determine if something is good or bad.

    2. Because the market fluctuates. You should have kept your money in and you would now be back in the green with the recent market surge. You do realize that both apps will use similar stocks/ETFs, and that Acorns didn’t directly make you lose money? Not sure your definition of “a ton of money”, but I would research investing some before putting your money in something, so you have a bet understanding.

    3. You didn’t lose tons of money. You didn’t stay invested long enough. You’re entering when the markets at all the highs. The growth is going to be slow and likely negative to begin with. That’s how investing works no matter what you invest in. Be patient

  11. THANK YOU FOR THIS! I hate articles that just tell you what each one does with no final recommendation on which is better. This was clear, concise and just what I was looking for!

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