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.
Here's a more specific comparison between Stash and Acorns we did a while ago.
In this Comparison:
About RobinhoodRobinhood 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 Disclosure – This 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 AcornsAcorns 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.
About Stashsimple 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.
- 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.
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.
All three services are winners here since neither requires a minimum deposit or investment.
- 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.
- 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.
Stash offers email and phone support. Both Acorns and Robinhood offer support only via email. There's no number to call.
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.
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.
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.