Smartphone apps are changing the world of investing for beginners and experts. On the high end, investing apps are letting passionate traders get access to tools that were typically reserved for only major firms — and giving them those tools right on their smartphone. For beginners, a whole host of new apps have popped up, with smart ways to welcome people into the world of investing.
Stash and Acorns are two apps with a similar premise: They help people get started investing by withdrawing very small amounts from their bank accounts regularly. These small amounts add up over time, becoming a foundation to help people start growing their wealth.
But which micro-investing app is better? In this article, we will give you a rundown of Stash and Acorns, including which features they share and which features set them apart. We’ll then look at fees associated with each app. We’ll also quickly look at a few other competitors, and then give our final verdict on which beginning investment app is right for you.
Getting to Know Stash and Acorns
Stash and Acorns are similar apps with similar goals. (Their names are even similar.) But they do function in slightly different ways, which are important to understand before you commit to one of them.
Acorns has built its product around the idea of investing your “spare change.” The app connects to your checking accounts, saving accounts, or credit cards, and there’s no limit to how many accounts or credit cards you can link. (If you’re just getting started investing, it’s probably not a good idea to have too many credit cards, but that’s an article for another day.)
Acorns finds its spare change by its “Round-Ups.” Round-Ups are small amounts of money creating by rounding up to the nearest dollar after you make a purchase. Say you buy a pack of gum for $1.70 and pay with a debit card — if that account is linked to Acorns, your purchase will be rounded up to $2, and 30 cents will be deposited into your Acorns investment account.
These amounts are small and meant to happen without you noticing. You can also schedule deposits to occur on your timeline — many people like to schedule them on payday.
Once Acorns has your money, they invest it for you. Stash works slightly differently. Let’s talk about Stash.
Stash Invest began as an automated investment app with a low barrier of entry, designed for beginners and college students. You could start an investment account with just $5. Their goal was to teach investment literacy by letting people start to participate in the process with just a small amount of money.
Beginners can build an investment portfolio based around themes, which are meant to reflect your interests or industries you believe in. These portfolios are comprised of exchange-traded funds, otherwise known as ETFs, which is made up of assets that reflect your chosen theme.
Acorns, on the other hand, doesn’t give investors as much choice in the matter. The money is simply invested for you.
Stash has since embraced many of the features that apps like Acorns use. They now have Auto-Stash, where the app links to your bank accounts or credit cards and then rounds up purchases to give you the change — just like Acorns does.
Comparing Stash and Acorns Features
Competition between apps like Stash and Acorns has made it so they share quite a few of the same features. Both apps let you invest with a very small amount of money, and both allow you to put money into your investment portfolio automatically.
Both give you access to retirement planning, letting you open up either traditional IRAs or Roth IRA accounts.
Both have mobile apps for Apple iOS and Android. They both offer investment management through what are known as “robo-advisors,” smart computer programs which build and maintain investment portfolios. And when it comes to fees, which we’ll get to shortly, they’re very similar.
Features Unique to Acorns
Acorns has a few features that set it apart from Stash. The big one is that they have no minimum deposit — you can start an Acorns investment account with no money. (Stash is only $5 minimum, but still!) Acorns allows this because they know once you link your accounts, the money will start being deposited in the account in your first month.
Acorns also has a pilot program called Found Money, which allows investors to get cash back from certain retailers … and the cash back goes directly into your Acorns account. They have only a few brands partnering with them now, including 1-800-FLOWERS and Dollar Shave Club, but it’s a unique way for app users to save money.
Features Unique to Stash
Stash has one big feature that Acorns doesn’t — they give you the chance to supplement your portfolio with your own investment choices. This gives you more investment options when it comes to building your portfolio.
These options start simply, by letting you choose from themes, but you can take more control over your money as you learn more and get more specific with your investment goals.
As part of this endeavor, the company also has Stash Learn, which is a nice part of the Stash website that provides financial education for new investors. Their website is another feature unique to Stash. Acorns only has a mobile app.
Looking at Fees
Both Acorns and Stash have the same low-cost, set fee structure for their basic service: $1 monthly fee with no annual fee.
With the Acorns app, however, that service fee is consistent for accounts up to $1 million. For account balances over $1 million, they charge a 0.25% fee. If you want to get access to their retirement savings program, Acorns Later, that’s an additional $1 a month.
Acorns has a special deal targeted toward young people, where the service is free to use if you are under the age of 24 or a college student.
Stash has a slightly different fee model, with tiers of service. The base tier costs $1 a month. If you want access to the next tier, which lets you use retirement accounts, that’s $3 a month. They also have a top tier which includes a debit card and more features, and that’s $9 a month.
Comparing Stash and Acorns to Other Investment Apps
Stash and Acorns are two popular apps for beginner investors, but they aren’t the only investment apps on the market.
Platforms like Betterment, Robinhood, Wealthfront, and Vanguard are all popular, and all give investors a lot more tools. These apps are true investment platforms, letting users either work with robo-advisors or real people to build a diversified portfolio of varying asset classes. While Stash and Acorns are essentially limited to exchange-traded funds (ETFs), these other apps give you access to government bonds, real estate funds, mutual funds, corporate bonds, individual stocks … even Bitcoin.
As a result, these apps tend to have higher fees and higher account minimums. These fees are often lower than traditional investment advising firms, but still, they can’t compare to the $1 a month that Stash and Acorns charge.
Final Verdict: Stash vs. Acorns
For novice investors looking to start building a portfolio, Acorns and Stash both have low fees, easy-to-use mobile apps, and auto-saving of “spare change” which lets you start saving without even thinking about it.
It’s really about what is important to you. If you want to learn more about investing and plan on taking an active role in your wealth management moving forward, Stash might be for you. Stash is an excellent way to not only start saving but start learning about building investment portfolios. With educational resources and a more hands-on approach to choosing what’s in your portfolio, it’s a great tool for people to learn about investing.
If you don’t care much about what’s in your fund, but really just want to start saving and growing your money, Acorns might be the better bet. It has no account balance and lets you open up retirement savings accounts for just $2 a month, $1 a month cheaper than Stash. You won’t get as much control over the money, but Acorns chooses low-risk funds that have shown steady growth, and if you trust them, it’s simpler.
We’re splitting hairs here. Both of these apps are excellent choices for beginners looking to get into the stock market. After reading this article, you should have a good sense of which app is right for you as you begin your investing journey.