Geared towards newbie investors who’ve felt like they don’t have enough money to invest in the stock market, Acorns and Stash make it easy to start investing with little money.
While these micro-investment apps have a lot in common, there are some key differences that will make Acorns or Stash better for you. This comparison will break down the differences, costs, pros and cons, and who each investment app is best for.
Acorns vs. Stash Overview
$0 to open account; $5 to start investing
$0; $5 for Smart Portfolios
Account Management Fee
$50 per ETF transfer fee to have them transferred to another brokerage; No charge to sell your investments and have cash transferred
$0 standard transfer fee, or 1% instant transfer; Outgoing ACAT full transfer fee of $75
0.05% to 0.18%
Smart Portfolio average is less than 0.06%
5 Well-diversified portfolios of ETFs with exposure to domestic and international stocks, bonds, and REITs
Smart Portfolios is a diversified mix of domestic and international stocks, bonds, and crypto
4,000 individual stocks and ETFs available for DIY accounts
Socially Responsible Portfolio Option
4 new ESG portfolios
None for automated services
ESG themed ETFs available in the DIY accounts
Individual non-retirement accounts; Roth, traditional, and SEP IRA; UTMA/UGMA accounts
Individual brokerage accounts, Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, debit account, and up to two custodial accounts
Yes on Smart Portfolios
Available 7 days a week via live chat, phone, and email
Phone and email support available 5 days a week; Email support available on the weekends
Acorns is a robo-advisor app that’s built for people who want a simple, low-cost, and passive investing experience. When you sign up, Acorns asks you a series of questions about your risk tolerance and goals, and then its algorithm will recommend a portfolio that aligns with your needs.
It launched in 2012 and now has nearly 4 million investors. A mobile app is available on iOS and Android, and you can also access Acorns on your desktop.
Acorns has two different subscription tiers, ranging from $3 to $5 per month.
- Acorns Personal $3/month. Includes a personal investment account, retirement account, and checking account
- Acorns Family $5/month: Adds custodial investment accounts for kids.
All accounts are managed through Acorns robo-advisor services, and all include access to an individual investment account and retirement accounts.
Acorns used to have a $1/month plan called Lite, which was only an individual brokerage account, but it’s no longer available as of 2021.
What’s unique about Acorns
Acorns is very much a robo-advisor that recommends a portfolio based on your risk tolerance and goals. Your funds are automatically invested, and Acorns even rebalances your portfolio for a very passive investing experience. Unlike Stash, Acorns offers no DIY investment options, so keep that in mind as you decide between Stash or Acorns.
Here are features specific to Acorns:
- Acorns Earn: This program allows you to earn money on purchases you make through the Acorns app. There are over 350 companies partnered with Acorns, and you can earn a percentage of your purchase or a flat amount. Your earnings hit your account in 60-120 days.
- Acorns Harvest: Harvest is a new-ish and optional feature that negotiates bank and credit card fees on your behalf. This service uses AI and machine learning technology, and customers average $200 refunded for successful negotiations.
Stash was founded in 2015 and lets investors take a DIY approach to choose their investments or access an automated robo-advisor through its Smart Portfolios. Smart Portfolios are only available with the $3 and $9/month subscription tiers.
Investors will now have exposure to cryptocurrency through Stash’s Smart Portfolio. Stash has decided to go with Grayscale, a digital currency management platform, to feature investments in the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) and Grayscale Ethereum Trust (ETHE).
Grayscale uses Delaware Statutory Trusts, which are similar to mutual funds and ETFs, giving you exposure to cryptocurrencies without the responsibility of storing, trading, or safeguarding coins or tokens.
Stash currently has over 5 million users with more than $2.5 billion in assets under management. The app is available for both iOS and Android, and you can also use it on your desktop.
Stash has changed its approach and pricing over the years, and it now only has two plans ranging from $3 to $9 per month.
Here are Stash’s three account options:
- Growth $3/month. Includes a personal investment account, banking access, a $1,000 life insurance policy offered by Avibra, plus a dedicated retirement account and Smart Portfolio
- Stash+ $9/month. Everything in Growth, plus two custodial accounts for kids, banking access to 2x stock with the Stock-Back card, and a $10,000 life insurance through Avibra
If you’re deciding between Stash or Acorns, there’s a good chance you’re interested in the automated services. It requires at least $3/month to gain access to robo-advisor services through either. The difference is that Stash lets you choose between automated services or a DIY approach.
What’s unique about Stash
The most unique feature of Stash investing is that you have significantly more control and choice when it comes to your investments. You can self-direct all of your investments, set things on auto-pilot, and invest in fractional shares of ETFs and stocks.
Here are features specific to Stash:
- New: Crypto exposure in Smart Portfolios: In January 2022, Stash announced investors would gain broad exposure to Bitcoin and Ethereum with Smart Portfolios.
- Use the Stock-Back card and get rewarded with investments. Stash’s Stock-Back card is tied to an online bank account through Stash, which is available with all three plans. When you swipe your Stock-Back card at places that have stock listed on Stash’s platform, you may earn a percentage of your purchases back in stock (similar to earning credit card points). The card pays up to 5% stock back — you choose a fractional share of stock or ETF of your choice — and Stash automatically invests it for you. Members of Stash+ earn 2x stock on eligible purchases.
- Invest in company stocks with Stash instead of ETFs only. ETFs give you broad exposure, but you can also add individual company stocks to your Stash portfolio. You can purchase fractional shares and set up one-time or recurring investments with both stocks and ETFs.
- Life insurance through Avibra: Stash investors get a $1,000 or $10,000 life insurance policy through Avibra, depending on which plan they’ve signed up for.
Similarities between Acorns and Stash
A couple of years ago, there were more differences than similarities, but as Acorns and Stash have grown their features and changed some of their approaches, these two apps are increasingly alike.
Here’s what you can expect from both Acorns and Stash:
- Fractional shares: You’re investing in fractional, or micro, shares of ETFs or stocks with Stash and Acorns. This means you can start investing with very small amounts of money, which makes investing more accessible overall.
- Robo-advisor services: Stash recently launched Smart Portfolios, which are similar to what Acorns has been doing all along. The Smart Portfolios are discretionary managed accounts that are managed by Stash. Both Acorns and Stash use your risk tolerance to determine the best asset allocation for your portfolio and invest the funds accordingly. When your portfolio experiences a certain amount of drift (when it becomes over or underweight in a certain asset class), Acorns and Stash automatically rebalance so your portfolio stays aligned with your risk profile. Stash Smart Portfolio is currently only offered with Growth and Stash+, both starting at $3/month. All Acorns accounts are managed this way.
- Individual, retirement, and custodial accounts: Stash and Acorns both offer individual investment accounts, retirement accounts (traditional and Roth IRAs), and custodial accounts. Access to those accounts varies by plan.
- Checking account: It’s become really common for investment apps to offer a companion bank account with debit card access. Stash and Acorns both offer them, and both accounts come with perks, either Stash’s Stock-Back program or Acorns’ Earn program.
- Round-ups: When you use your linked card to make a purchase, you have the option to let Stash or Acorns round your transaction up to the next dollar amount and invest the difference. Round-ups are optional and can be turned off and on in the apps.
- Recurring and one-time investments: You can schedule one-time and recurring investments with both Acorns and Stash, although Stash gives you slightly more control because you can set them up for stocks and ETFs.
- Financial education: Acorns has Money Basics articles and Grow Magazine (a blog in partnership with CNBC). Stash includes articles about investing, cryptocurrency, budgeting, insurance, taxes, and more.
- Commission-free investments: You don’t pay commissions with either investment service.
Who is Stash best for?
Stash is better for investors who want to get more hands-on with their investments, and that’s because you can direct exactly how your funds are invested. You can choose from roughly 1,800 stocks and ETFs on Stash’s platform.
There are curated collections of stocks and ETFs on Stash to make it easier to find what you’re looking for, including recent IPOs, income ETFs, and large global companies. You can bookmark assets to quickly find ones you’ve been interested in.
The downside of Stash is that to get all of the features, you’ll have to pay $9/month, which is considerably high for investment apps.
Stash Pros & Cons:
Who is Acorns best for?
Acorns is better for investors who want a truly hands-off experience because this investment app recommends your investments and has features that fully automate your experience.
At the core, Acorns is a robo-advisor that lets you invest with small amounts of money. You answer a short series of questions after you sign up, and Acorns recommends one of five portfolios for you, ranging from conservative to aggressive. Your funds are automatically invested in your portfolio and rebalanced as needed. There are additional features, like Earn and Round-Ups, that help grow your balance.
Acorns Pros & Cons:
The final word: Which is better, Stash or Acorns?
There are more similarities than differences between these two investment apps. Both let you invest in micro shares and offer individual, retirement, and custodial accounts. The difference for most investors is going to come down to control.
It’s worth mentioning that both Acorns and Stash have higher fees than similar investment alternatives. Here are a couple of options to check out:
- Betterment is a robo advisor that charges 0.25% of assets under management, and it’s cheaper than Acorns when your balance is under $15,000. Read our full Betterment review for more information.
- Robinhood is a free investment app (no monthly fees!) that offers $0 commission trades on fractional shares of stocks and ETFs. Learn more in our Robinhood review.
While Acorns and Stash have automated options, Robinhood is a fully hands-on, DIY approach. Robinhood offers stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrency, and there are no subscription fees or commissions
Yes, you can make money on Acorns. Acorns invests your money in a diverse collection of ETFs that are aligned with your risk profile. However, you can also lose money, as the stock market experiences regular amounts of volatility. The ultimate takeaway is that you need to think about investing as a long-term strategy and not focus on short-term gains or losses.
Stash and Acorns are very similar with round-ups, fractional shares, automated investment features, and account offerings. But Stash gives you more control over how you direct your investments, and it’s slightly more expensive.
You can make and lose money on Stash and any other investment app. Your money is being invested in the stock market, which experiences natural swings over time. Keep yourself focused on the long-term rather than any short-term losses or gains.
Stash Disclaimer: 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. Nothing in this article should be construed as Legal or Tax Advice. For additional questions regarding Taxes, please consult a Tax Professional. Investing involves risk.
*Clients may incur ancillary fees charged by Stash and/or it’s custodian that are not included in the monthly Wrap-Fee.
1 Debit Account Services provided by Green Dot Bank, Member FDIC. Investment products and services are not offered by Green Dot Bank, are NOT FDIC Insured, Not Bank Guaranteed and May Lose Value. Account opening for the debit account is subject to Green Dot Bank’s approval.
2 Other fees apply to the debit account. Please see Deposit Account Agreement for details
3 Other fees may apply. Fee-free ATM access applies to in-network ATMs only. For our-of-network ATMs and bank tellers a $2.50 fee will apply, plus any additional fee that the Atm owner or bank may charge.
4 Early access to your direct deposit depends on deposit verification and when Green Dot Bank gets notice from your employer, and may vary from pay period to pay period.
5 Opt-in is required. In order to earn stock in the program, the Stash debit card must be used to make a qualifying purchase. Stock-Back Rewards that are issued to a participating customer's personal brokerage account via the Stash Stock-Back Program, are not FDIC Insured, Not Bank Guaranteed and May Lose Value. Stash Stock-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.
6. What doesn’t count: Cash withdrawals, money orders, prepaid cards, and P2P payment. See full terms and conditions.