Acorns vs Robinhood vs Stash Invest

Which Stock Broker is Better?

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While virtually every major brokerage offers online and mobile account management, a small crop of brokers took a mobile-first approach, putting most of the power of your investment account on your smartphone. Stash, Robinhood, and Acorns are three leaders in the mobile-first investment landscape. All three tout low costs and excellent user experience but do they live up to the hype? Let's investigate whether they may be a good fit for your investing needs. Here's our Acorns vs Robinhood vs Stash Invest comprehensive comparison.

 Stash Invest ReviewAcorns ReviewRobinhood Review
Rating8.5/108.5/108.5/10
Minimum to Open Account$0$0$0
FeesBeginner Plan: $1/month; Growth Plan: $3/month; Stash+ Plan: $9/month$1 a month for the Lite plan; $3 a month for the Personal Plan; $5 a month for the Family plan. No commission fees
Taxable Accounts
ETFs
Socially Responsible Investing
AdviceAutomatedAutomated
Individual Stocks

Here's a more specific comparison between Stash and Acorns we did a while ago.

About Robinhood

In the story of Robin Hood, a dashing hero leads a band of Merry Men to steal from the rich and give to the poor. While the Robinhood app doesn't do quite the same, it does empower people from any background to get involved in the stock market. It offers zero-fee accounts with no trading fees.

Robinhood supports investing in stocks, ETFs, options, and even cryptocurrencies. (Note that new investors would be wise to avoid options and digital currencies and focus on the stock and ETF offerings.) While aggressive low-fee brokers charge $4.95 for most buy-and-sell transactions, Robinhood doesn't charge anything. That makes it more viable to make smaller investments without losing a large percentage off the top to fees.

The company has held a good reputation, While zero commission fees might sound too good to be true, with Robinhood, that's really what you get.

I have a Robinhood account myself for testing purposes, and it does live up to its promises. I particularly like the automatic notifications for news relating to investments in your portfolio.

Further Reading: Robinhood Alternatives

Advertiser DisclosureThis advertisement contains information and materials provided by Robinhood Financial LLC and its affiliates (“Robinhood”) and Investor Junkie, a third party not affiliated with Robinhood. All investments involve risk, and the past performance of a security or financial product does not guarantee future results or returns. Securities offered through Robinhood Financial LLC and Robinhood Securities LLC, which are members of FINRA and SIPC. Investor Junkie is not a member of FINRA or SIPC.”


About Acorns

Acorns started out with only automated investing for $1 per month and expanded through acquisition to support retirement accounts and checking account. You can get just the starting plan, Acorns Lite, for $1 per month. Acorns Personal includes a checking and retirement account for $3 per month, and the whole suite of Acorns features, available with Acorns Family, can be yours for $5 per month. Acorns Family includes everything you'll get with Acorns Personal, plus the option to invest for children.

If you want to keep all of your finances in one app, Acorns may be one of the best options. But for today, we are going to focus on the investment features. It's not free, but it remains a very low-cost and attainable option for new investors.

Acorns is all about fun ways to contribute and add to your account. You can set up automated recurring investments, round-up change from debit or credit purchases, and get bonus cash invested when you shop with partner brands.

I have an Acorns Personal account, and I'm not thrilled with the investment performance. My account is up 1.52% over the last year compared to the S&P 500's 9.16% return. This isn't quite an apples-to-apples comparison, but it is directionally indicative of my performance since starting with Acorns. Overall though, the account works as advertised.

Further Reading:


About Stash

Stash Invest is a simple and good investment app where you can invest with just a few bucks. Stash supports taxable brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, and custodial accounts so that you can open one for any major financial goal.

Stash charges $1 per month for taxable accounts up to $5,000 and 0.25% for larger accounts. For retirement accounts, Stash charges $2 per month for accounts with less than $5,000 and 0.25% for accounts with $5,000 or more. You can choose between a traditional and a Roth IRA.

You can invest in exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or fractional shares of stocks, and Stash never charges any trading or brokerage commissions or fees.

Stash is excellent for people learning to invest, as it offers suggestions around building your ideal portfolio (similar to a Robo advisor) while giving you the freedom to choose any supported investment. The platform supports recurring contributions and one-time deposits.

I don't use Stash myself, but it generally gets good reviews from customers. One of the best standout features is the option to invest in industries you feel good about — more on that in just a bit.


How Are They the Same?

All three services offer many features. First, let's take a look at how they're similar.

  • Minimum Investment — None of the services requires a minimum investment to begin.
  • Investment Account Types — All three offer a taxable account.
  • Investment Types — All three services allow you to invest in ETFs.
  • Mobile Apps — All three services emphasize investing with an Android or Apple mobile device.

How Are They Different?

Let's take a look at the areas where Stash, Robinhood, and Acorns differ.

Fees

  • Robinhood has no commission fees and no account fees for its basic account.
  • Acorns charges $1, $3, or $5 per month based on your tier of service.
  • Stash charges $1 per month for accounts under $5,000 and 0.25% per year for amounts above that.

Socially Responsible Investing —  If you're interested in investing in designated SRI (socially responsible investing) portfolios, you'll find this to be a focus at Stash.
Individual Stocks — Both Robinhood and Stash allow you to invest in individual stocks; Acorns does not.

Unique Features

Features Unique to Robinhood

  • Robinhood is free to use for its basic account and has no commissions on trades. You can buy a huge range of stocks, ETFs, and other investments with no fees. It doesn't offer extensive guidance or education resources, so it's best for someone willing to do their learning elsewhere.
  • Its support of free cryptocurrency and options trades is unique, but most investors should avoid those.

Features Unique to Acorns

  • Acorns offers unique and fun options to fund your account and takes care of the investments for you. While you won't pick individual stocks or ETFs as you would with the other apps, that also takes away the worry about having to know what to choose.
  • Its three accounts are competitive in cost with Stash and could work as a home for all of your finances.

Features Unique to Stash

  • Stash is unique in its ability to focus your investments into different themes based on your values. If you want to avoid putting your dollars into any particular industry or if you want to focus on specific sectors, you have some options to handle that with Stash.
  • Stash offers more than 100 investment options, made up of a limited list of popular stocks and ETFs. It is best for someone who doesn't know a lot about investing now but wants to learn more and have some guidance while building a portfolio.
  • Stash offers a banking solution, which Robinhood currently does not. That makes it a viable option to hold all of your money if you choose.

Minimum Investments

All three services are winners here since neither requires a minimum deposit or investment.

Winner — Stash Invest, Robinhood and Acorns are all winners.

Annual Fees

  • Stash has three membership levels, priced at $1, $3, and $9 per month. If you want a retirement account, you'll need to get at least the $3 plan.
  • Robinhood offers zero-free commissions and no fees for its basic account. It offers a Gold account for $5 a month, including more features such as margin trading.
  • Acorns has three plans, priced at $1, $3, and $5 per month.
Winner — Robinhood wins for its commission-free trades and no fees for its basic account.

Standout Features

  • Many investors will find Stash appealing because it allows clients to take advantage of automated investing when they want just to set it and forget it. On the other hand, clients can take full control over their accounts if they choose.
  • Robinhood is a standout in that it's a full-service stock broker that's mostly free to use. You can trade stocks, funds, options, whatever, all without paying a dime in commissions.
  • Acorns appeals to some with its fun and unique options for funding your account. For instance, you can round up your purchases and invest in the spare change. You can also earn investment rewards by shopping with a number of select partners.
Winner — Stash Invest, Robinhood and Acorns all offer great features. It just depends on what you are looking for.

Customer Service

Stash offers email and phone support. Both Acorns and Robinhood offer support only via email. There's no number to call.

Winner — Stash Invest is the winner because you can call up and talk to somebody if you need help.

Security

All three of these apps use industry-standard security and encryption. As long as you use a strong password, your account should be safe with Stash, Robinhood, or Acorns. All are regulated financial companies in compliance with federal laws.

Winner — Stash Invest, Robinhood and Acorns are all winners when it comes to security.

Who Are They Best For?

All three of these offerings are a good fit, depending on your needs.

  • Stash is best for new investors who want to learn. Its hybrid of self-directed and automated investing options can teach you a lot about how investing works.
  • Robinhood is best for active traders. This is where you'll want to come if you have some experience and are looking for low-cost, self-directed stock, ETF, options, and cryptocurrency trading.
  • Acorns if best for people who don't want to be bothered with investing. You can set it and forget it. This is hands-off investing for the long term.

Which Is the Best?

I have one major issue with Stash and Acorns, and that's pricing.

  • If you're starting out with just a very small portfolio, that $1 per month ($12 per year) can take a relatively big bite out of your portfolio gains.
  • That's partly why my Acorns account has hardly grown compared to the S&P 500. I'm paying $2 per month, and that comes out of my investment profits.

However, I also recognize that you're paying for service with Acorns and Stash. The fee of a few bucks per month is for investment advice. If you can do without the consultation, you can self-direct your portfolio at a discount brokerage elsewhere for no monthly or annual fees.

Because Robinhood is mostly free to use and doesn't offer any advising services for your portfolio, I would put it in a different category from the others. There could be reasons to use both Robinhood and Acorns, but Stash does roughly the same thing as the other two combined, provided you don't need some stock or other investment Robinhood offers, but Stash does not.

So which is the best? That depends on your goals and fee tolerance.

  • If you can do it yourself, Robinhood is great.
  • If you can't and want to pay someone for help, Stash and Acorns are both excellent products. But be aware that the cost comes out of your investment gains, and $1 per month in fees is a cost that adds up over time.

Bottom Line

Just a few decades ago, if you had told a stockbroker that you would one day enter your investment and stock market trades from a little computer you keep in your pocket, they might have laughed. These days, it's hard to imagine a world without online, mobile, and automatic investing.

Overall, any of these apps could be a good fit for your finances. Just make sure you fully understand the costs before getting started.

Eric Rosenberg

Eric Rosenberg is a finance, travel and technology writer in Ventura, California. He is a former bank manager and corporate finance and accounting professional who left his day job in 2016 to take his online side hustle full time. He has in-depth experience writing about banking, credit cards, investing and other financial topics and is an avid travel hacker. When away from the keyboard, Eric enjoys exploring the world, flying small airplanes, discovering new craft beers and spending time with his wife and little girls.

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16 Comments

  1. I would really consider checking out MyWallSt as an alternative to all of these! Their stock picks are superior and long-term investing mindset is something that needs to be highlighted! Also the app is so clean and easy to use in my opinion.

  2. What a disappointment. I’m what most would consider extremely knowledgeable; owned, managed and consulted to 10’s of brokerages, managed portfolios, and developed structured products. I thought Acorns was a great way to get my young son to start saving/investing until I read Acorns offers only 3 options, probably low, moderate and high risk ETF’s. If they’re offering Fractional shares the brokerage either already owns or has to buy one share so you can have a fraction. Eventually a group of investors will buy/own the share and the brokerage will have to buy another.
    Two important items not mentioned; analysis and margin. Do any of the firms noted offer margin lending and if so what are the rates? Do any offer comparative financial analysis (comparative P/E) or technical analysis (charts and graphs with modifiable parameters)? How can one invest or trade without knowledge? Or are we supposed to study the managers alpha and portfolio‘s beta coefficient compared to others. Unless of course it an ETF, then it’s about the fee. LIGHT BULB- if you can only buy an ETF and Acorn or the other only offers ETF’s look at the management fee of the ETF- that’s where they earn a % of AUM (assets under management). Compare their fee to a similar ETF and my guess is, you’ll find free trading only into an ETF that the company is the manager. The other way they earn fees is from margin lending. If they extend credit they’re making money on the debit interest.

  3. Can you start off with one company and after awhile switch? I am new to investing. I am thinking about stash for now then go to Robinhood.
    Or can I use both?

  4. Hey, are there any mobile investing apps or options that you would consider socially responsible? Also, are there any ETFs that are very strict in their social responsibility, and environmental factors that you know of?

  5. Mostly accurate, however, if you aren’t willing to invest enough money where $1 to $2 a month is affordable, then you are probably not going to generate anything substantial. At $5 investment a week, the costs of $2 a month would have been covered had you invested in the S&P 500. It takes money to make money, $5 a week isn’t going to cut it, for me at least. I use all three, in addition to an Ameritrade account that I have had for years. They all serve a purpose, with Acorns being by far the least desired option, unless you are completely a rookie and want to get started while you begin to do some research on how to invest, but don’t want to sink money into individual stocks or ETFs yet. They offer I think 3 choices of investments to put your money into. 3.

    Moving on to Robinhood. As was discussed, FREE! Great for buying stocks and options, and even some crypto if you are into that and don’t want to pay Coinbase’s ridiculous fees buying and selling crypto coins. Overall the layout is good, and it has more individual stocks than Stash has to choose from when looking at things you want to invest in. The drawback, like with Ameritrade, is that you must buy full shares. So, for a newbie who wants some Google, Amazon, Netflix, Apple, etc, you are looking at hundreds or over a thousand dollars to gamble on a single share. Not going to happen. Which brings me to…

    Stash. While you touched on it barely in your article, the PRIMARY benefit for me is that I can buy fractional shares. I can invest $5 in Google if that is all I can afford and get in on the game like people with big cash can, wherever I may be in my current financial state. The ETF’s they have created are cool to guide you in your interests, and they offer more learning modules in easy to understand ways than any of the others hands down.

    Ameritrade now has commission free trades (as of writing this 1/15/20) and the most comprehensive selection of stocks and ETFs, mutual funds, and options trading than any of the mobile app versions, as I am sure the other big brokers do as well. It is far more intimidating and requires a lot more getting used to, but if you have advanced strategies, like wanting a certain number of shares to be sold or bought when a price is triggered, and then have another order auto triggered if other conditions are met, these types of services will be the best fit for you as your portfolio grows or you should consult with wealth managers to help educate you or act as a watchdog in your interest for a percentage of your portfolio.

    So, if I were to recommend one for most, would be Stash. Go through the modules and learn about the market and investing basics. If you absolutely can’t manage

    1. Thank you. This was extremely helpful. I was leaning towards getting noth Robinhood and Stash but will just go with Stash since I am not obligated to buy whole shares. I’ve been doing my research and saw that word (fractional shares) and didn’t know what it really meant until I looked up the cost one share of Nike and Amazon and they range from $90 per share to over $200 a share! That is no way an app for beginners like me who have absolutely no idea of what we are doing. I really hate that Acorns doesn’t offer fractional shares because I really like that they allow you to invest your spare change. I’ll be going with Stash, thanks to you.

    2. Jason, so if you had to liquidate your Stash acct( not the retirement one) I know they have to sell your fractional stock purchases and then give you what’s left, is that correct?!

  6. Hey Eric, I’m new to investing as is not having any experience at all. I want the long term gains but also want to learn how to invest in stocks etc. Would Robin hood be the best fit for me? I had Acorn a couple of years back and got discouraged by the monthly fee.

    1. you can have recurring payment from a bank account. The amount I believe is up to you. So even %$ a month to Stash is a start

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