Stash vs Acorns: Which Investing Service Is Better for You?

Updated November 07, 2021

Stash and Acorns both make investing accessible for beginners. Both services do this by offering a selection of low-cost investments and support for users to save for retirement and other financial goals. While Acorns helps users invest spare change by rounding up purchases, Stash helps users by building personalized investment portfolios.

We’ve compared both Stash and Acorns’ robo-advisory services, breaking down the pricing, investment options, security, and user experience of each.

Stash vs Acorns Overview

Features

Stash

Acorns

Account Fees 

Stash Beginner: $1/month 

Stash Growth: $3/month

Stash+: $9/month

Personal: $3 per month, includes investment account, IRA, and checking account

Family: $5 per month includes everything in Personal plus kids’ investment account

 

Expense Ratios

0.00% to 0.95%, depending on portfolio and funds selected

0.03 - 0.34%

Account Minimums 

$0 to open account

$1 to invest

$0 to open, $5 to start investing

Investment Options/Choices

Over 3,000 individuals stocks and ETFs in 20 asset classes

Socially responsible investment (SRI) funds available

Access to 22 ETFs in seven asset classes

Investment Account Options 

Individual investment accounts

IRA, Roth IRA

UTMA/UGMA accounts

Taxable brokers accounts

IRA, Roth IRA, SEP IRA

UTMA/UGMA accounts

Portfolio Construction 

Automatic portfolio rebalancing on Stash Growth and Stash+ accounts

Automatic portfolio rebalancing on all accounts

Tax Strategy 

None

None

Customer Service and Support 

Email support via contact form

Phone and email support, 6am to 7pm PST, seven days a week

Mobile Compatibility 

Mobile app available

Website is mobile-friendly

Mobile app available

Website is mobile-friendly

Account Setup

Simple online account setup

Sign up for an account online, select account type, answer a few questions, select investment options (or Smart Portfolio), and fund the account ($0.05 minimum to invest).

Simple account setup, all done online or through mobile app.

Sign up for free with your email address, provide personal information, answer a few questions, and fund the account (no minimum balance required, but $5 needed to make an investment)

Security

Bank-grade data protection, two-factor authentication. FDIC insurance ($250,000), SIPC insurance ($500,000)

Bank-grade data protection, 256-bit AES encryption, two-factor authentication. FDIC insurance ($250,000), SIPC insurance ($500,000)

Ease of access 

Mobile app available, plus a full-featured website with a customer dashboard.

Mobile app for full account management, website offers help center.

About Stash

Stash is an investing app and robo-advisory service that helps users choose their investments through a series of questions and educational tools. Users can access over 3,000 exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and individual stocks, as well as personalized financial advice.

There are several levels of service available from Stash, from basic investment planning, to automatic investment management, to opening investment accounts for kids. Here’s a quick breakdown of each level of service:

Stash Beginner ($1/mo): Provides access to a personalized portfolio recommendation, Stash checking account, and rewards debit card (which rewards users with stocks instead of cash back). Users are responsible for manually purchasing the suggested investments to build the portfolio. 

Stash Growth ($3/mo): Stash Growth offers everything in Stash Beginner, as well as the ability to open retirement accounts (IRAs). The “Smart Portfolio” option allows users to set up recurring investments, as well as automatic portfolio rebalancing. 

Stash+ ($9/mo): Stash+ offers everything in the previous two levels, plus a metal debit card (with 2x rewards), and access to investing accounts for kids.

About Acorns

Acorns is a mobile investing app and robo-advisor that helps users save and invest their spare change. It also offers a bank account with a debit card and reimbursed ATM fees. Users can invest in a range of low-cost ETFs, which Acorns uses to build investment portfolios, ranging from conservative to aggressive. 

Accounts are funded by rounding up purchases made from a linked checking account. Once the rounded up change amounts to $5 or more, Acorns invests those funds into the user’s investment portfolio. Acorns also gives users the ability to set up a recurring investment into the portfolio.

There are two levels of service available:

Acorns Personal: For $3/month, users can open a brokerage account, IRA, and checking account with a debit card.

Acorns Family: For $5/month, users get access to everything from Acorns Personal, plus the ability for parents to open kids’ investment accounts (as a custodian).

Main Features of Stash vs Acorns

Both Stash and Acorns can help make investing less scary for beginner investors. Here are a few of the stand-out features that each service offers:

Stash Personalized Portfolio

Stash offers a personalized portfolio recommendation at every level of service, showing users the ETF and stocks recommended for their risk profile. Portfolio recommendations, which are based on the answers to the onboarding questionnaire, place users into risk profiles to select the appropriate asset allocation.

Users can adjust this portfolio at any time, and also pick socially-responsible investment (SRI) funds to include in their portfolio. Some examples include the iShares Global Clean Energy ETF, or the iShares MSCI ACWI Low Carbon Target ETF, both which focus on environmental impact.

Stash Stock and ETF Selection

Stash has over 3,500 individual stocks and ETFs to choose from (and growing), giving users the ability to truly customize their investment portfolio. This wide selection is unique among robo-advisors, as most services offer a dozen or so ETFs. 

Stash also renames ETFs according to themes, which makes it easier to understand what you’re investing in by describing what is in each fund. For example; Stash renamed Vanguard’s VTI fund, “Stocks Nationwide,” helping users understand the fund owns stocks within the U.S. total stock market index.

Acorns Round-Up Feature

Acorns was the first app to round-up a user’s spare change, which helps users ease into investing. 

Each purchase from a linked debit or credit card account is rounded up to the nearest dollar, and then transferred to your Acorns account through the linked checking account. After $5-worth of change has been transferred, the funds will be invested. 

RELATED: A Full Breakdown of Savings Accounts to Help You Find the Best Rates

Acorns Rewards

Acorns has partnered with over 12,000 online retailers that offer cash back when you use a linked card to make a purchase from that store. For example, Apple, Nike, and Wal-Mart all help Acorns users earn money with their purchases.  

When a user makes a qualified purchase, the cash back bonus is deposited into a user’s Acorns account and invested, just like their spare change. In addition, Acorns has a Chrome extension that allows users to earn bonuses while shopping online. 

Stash and Acorns UTMA/UGMA Kids’ Investing Account

Both Stash and Acorns offer investing accounts for kids as part of their top-tier plans. This allows parents to open and invest into a UTMA/UGMA custodial investing account for their children. 

These custodial accounts offer the same access to investments and portfolio management as the standard investment accounts. Accounts are transferable to the child once they are 18 years of age.

    •    Note: UTMA/UGMA accounts may reduce a child’s eligibility for financial aid, such as student loans or grants. We recommend consulting with a financial professional before opening a custodial account for your child.


Stash and Acorns Automatic Rebalancing

Both Stash and Acorns offer automatic rebalancing on investment accounts, which means the service will automatically buy or sell investments to keep your asset allocation the same. This rebalancing happens periodically, or when the portfolio drifts too far away from the predetermined asset allocation.

For example, consider an aggressive portfolio with 80% stock ETFs and 20% bond ETFs. Since stock investments may gain faster returns, your asset allocation could eventually shift to 85% stock ETFs and 15% bond ETFs. In this case, the portfolio will sell some stock ETFs to purchase bond ETFs and get you back to an 80% stock, 20% bond portfolio.

Stash and Acorns Fee Structures

Both Stash and Acorns use a flat-fee structure for management fees, with users paying a small monthly rate. This makes it easy to understand exactly what you are paying for each service. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of each company’s fees:

Stash Fees:
Stash Beginner: $1 per month
Stash Growth: $3 per month
Stash+: $9 per month

Acorns Fees:
Acorns Personal: $3 per month
Acorns Family: $5 per month

While these fees seem low, those with smaller account balances may end up paying a large percentage in fees. Here’s a quick example:

If you invest $1,000 with Stash or Acorns using the $3/month plan, you are paying $36 per year in management fees. This ends up being a 3.6% annual management fee. Most robo-advisors charge about 0.15% - 0.35% in annual management fees, so both Stash and Acorns are charging much higher fees for those with small account balances.

RELATED: Personal Capital Revivew

Who Stash is Best for

Stash guides users through the investing process, focusing on financial education and eliminating most of the complicated financial jargon other investment firms use. This makes it a great option for beginners who may be afraid to invest. It also offers a fun way to earn cash back rewards in the form of stocks. 

Stash breaks everything into easy-to-understand steps and offers access to over 3,000 individual stocks, which most robo-advisors don’t do. 

Overall, Stash is a great platform for beginners who want to learn about, and grow, their investment accounts.

Who Acorns is Best for

Acorns is best for beginner investors who are worried they need a large amount of money to get started. It offers a diverse selection of investment options, and users can automate much of the investing process through the mobile app. With its focus on user education, low-cost funds, and rewards programs, Acorns uses game-like elements to make investing less intimidating and shows how small investments add up.

Acorns will even give you a $10 sign-up bonus to help you get started. Get your $10 bonus here.

Summary

Both Stash and Acorns are geared toward beginner investors, breaking down the barriers to investing with features like “themed” investment fund names and automatically investing spare change. 

Users who want some extra guidance might enjoy Stash’s helpful tips and step-by-step walkthrough to build an investment portfolio. Users who want to start investing in small amounts might prefer Acorn's simple-to-use round-up feature and cash back rewards.

While the flat monthly fees on both apps are a bit more expensive than competitors for accounts with smaller balances, these apps help get users off the sidelines to start investing.

RELATED: The Best Robo Advisors

References:

https://www.stash.com/investments/
https://ask.stash.com/ask/merchants-can-earn-stock-back/
https://support.acorns.com/hc/en-us/articles/360052527014-Where-is-my-money-invested-
https://support.acorns.com/hc/en-us/articles/360052527634-What-are-Round-Ups- 
 

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