For investors who want to take advantage of technology, SoFi and Acorns are two options new investors should consider. Both brokerages simplify your life by automating your investments for you.
But both brokerages have features that make them stand out to certain kinds of investors. Acorns pioneered the spare-change style of investing, which is great for people who feel like they don’t have enough money to invest. SoFi is a fee-free brokerage that offers crypto and a trading platform to self-direct your investments.
So which one is right for you? Let’s look at what each brokerage offers, fees, pros and cons, and who they’re best for.
SoFi vs. Acorns - Which App is Best in 2021?
What is SoFi Invest?
SoFi Invest is fairly new — the Sofi robo-advisor launched in 2017, and the active investing option started in 2019 — but it’s part of the larger SoFi financial company that does student loan refinancing, personal loans, insurance, mortgages, and more. SoFi Invest is for all types of investors: active, retirement, and investors interested in automating the process.
But what’s exciting about SoFi is that there are no management fees, account minimums, or commissions. Overall, SoFi is a very low-cost investment option for new investors who want a little bit of everything — hand-holding when they need help and the choice to self-direct their investments.
SoFi investing fees
As mentioned, SoFi doesn’t charge any management fees. When you compare that to Acorns’ flat monthly fee, SoFi has a significant edge. SoFi’s $0 management fees also beat the 0.25% management fee that Betterment and Wealthfront charge.
SoFi also does not charge commissions on stocks and ETFs. It also givea all clients unlimited access to certified financial planners at no additional charge.
You'll encounter a few miscellaneous fees at SoFi, and these are relatively standard across brokerages. These fees are:
- Wire transfers out: $15
- ACAT transfers from SoFi to another brokerage: $75
- Returned ACH/insufficient funds: $15
- Paper confirms: $2
- Paper statements: $5
SoFi Invest features
Commission-free trading platform
Active investors can trade stock, ETFs, and cryptocurrency on SoFi’s platform. SoFi’s even developed five of its own ETFs, and two of them — SoFi Select 500 (SFY) and SoFi Next 500 (SFYX) — are waiving fees for at least the first year.
SoFi’s cryptocurrency offerings are Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin. You’re not charged any trading fees on crypto, but SoFi does add a 1.25% upcharge on crypto trades. That means if you bought $100 worth of Litecoin, you’d pay $101.25.
SoFi offers fractional shares of stocks and ETFs called SoFi Bit, and was one of the first brokerages to start offering fractional shares. The benefit to fractional shares is that it’s a cost-effective way to enter the market and diversify your portfolio because you aren’t purchasing full share, which can get expensive depending on the assets.
What’s cool about SoFi is that both active and hands-off investors can use it. And for those who want a passive experience, you can let SoFi build and manage a portfolio for you without any management fees. SoFi has goal-based investing options, and it uses your goals and timeline to determine your risk tolerance and recommend a portfolio for you.
There are 10 different pre-built portfolios SoFi will invest in for you, and the average cost (expense ratios on ETFs in your portfolio) is a competitive 0.05%.
As mentioned, all clients investing with SoFi have unlimited access to SoFi’s team of certified financial planners. They don’t work on commission, and hold fiduciary standards to their clients, not SoFi.
Advisors are available for phone or video chat support between 7:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. EST Monday through Thursday, and 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. EST on Fridays.
This is a serious perk because one of the downsides to using a robo-advisor is that you don’t have access to human advice. Some robo-advisors give you the option, but it’s not cheap. Betterment, for example, charges a minimum of $299 for a 45-minute call with an advisor.
In addition to individual and joint brokerage accounts, SoFi offers Roth and traditional IRAs, they do rollover IRAs, and you can open an SEP IRA. There are no additional fees on retirement accounts, and you can let SoFi automatically manage your retirement portfolio for you.
The only downside is SoFi doesn’t offer mutual funds, commonly used in retirement accounts.
High-interest savings account
SoFi Money is a no-fee cash management account (so it’s actually a brokerage account, not a checking or savings account) that earns 0.25% APY. You do have to set up monthly recurring deposits of at least $500 to qualify for that APY, otherwise, you’ll earn 0.01% APY on your account.
No-fee means no account fees or other monthly fees. There’s also overdraft coverage up to $50. And there’s free ATM access at over 55,000 fee-free ATMs nationwide.
This is an FDIC-insured account that’s mobile-based. All from your phone, you can deposit funds, organize your savings goals for your phone, get real-time alerts, set up automated bill pay, and more.
What is Acorns?
Acorns is the original spare-change investing app created in 2012, and it removed one of the major barriers many people say with investing: the cost. You’re not going to retire on spare change alone, and that’s why Acorns gives you other ways to fund your portfolio, like the Found Money feature and recurring deposits.
Acorns is a very hands-off approach to investing. New clients are asked about their goals and timeline, and Acorns recommends a portfolio for you. It takes care of all of the work, investing your money for you as soon as cash hits your account.
Acorns investing fees
Unlike SoFi that has a no-fee approach, Acorns charges a flat monthly subscription for its services.
- Acorns Lite – $1/month: Includes a personal investment account, access to features like Round-Ups and Found Money, and access to a library of articles by financial experts.
- Acorns Personal – $3/month: Includes a personal investment account, tax-advantaged retirement account, and access to Spend, Acorn’s checking account option. Spend is a no-fee checking account with access to over 55,000 fee-free ATMs.
- Acorns Family – $5/month: In addition to personal, retirement, and checking accounts, this plan comes with custodial investment accounts for children.
Acorns is primarily known as a micro-investing app, but it’s very much a robo-advisor, too. That means it uses algorithms to determine what kind of portfolio to recommend for you and then exactly how to invest your money.
There are five different Acorns portfolios it will invest in for you, ranging from conservative to aggressive, which is less than SoFi offers. But Acorns does do automatic rebalancing like SoFi, so your portfolio has the correct asset allocation.
You can open an individual brokerage account, retirement accounts (Roth, traditional, and SEP IRA), and custodial accounts for kids. Remember, Acorns charges based on the kind of investment accounts you want, and it’s $5/month if you want each option.
Round-Ups are key to Acorns’ approach. You link a credit or debit card to Acorns after signing up, and then Acorns rounds up transactions from your linked card. Once your round-up amount hits $5, Acorns withdraws money from your bank account and invests it in your portfolio.
For example, if you spend $10.21 on lunch, Acorns rounds that up to $11, and invests the $0.79 difference. You can turn on Multipliers to boost your Round-Ups by 2x, 3x, or 10x.
You can turn Round-Ups and Multipliers on and off in the Acorns app, which is where you’ll also see how close you are to reaching $5, when Acorns triggers a withdrawal from your funding source.
Read more at Acorns vs. Stash | Which Investing App is Best?
The Acorns app has partnered with over 350 different companies to invest money for you when you sign-up or make a purchase with one of the partners. The amount varies from company to company, and it can be a flat fee or percentage of your total purchase.
Here’s an example of some Found Money offers:
- $35 for new Blue Apron customers
- $10 for new customers who sign up for the Disney+, Hulu, ESPN bundle
- $5 when you get a home, auto, or renters insurance quote from Liberty Mutual
Acorns and ZipRecruiter have partnered to list nearby job openings. Most of the jobs are focused on freelance, work-from-home jobs, or no-experience needed. There are also listings for jobs that invest for you. These are side gigs for places like Uber or Postmates, which will invest $5-$30 for you after you sign up and complete your first delivery.
Acorns referral program
If you invite your friends or family to start using Acorns, you will receive a $5 bonus for each person who signs up through your unique referral code. Your friend also gets $5 to start investing.
Acorns Spend is an online checking account that’s optional with all Acorns Personal and Family accounts. There are no fees, and you can access over 55,000 fee-free ATMs nationwide. Spend is FDIC-insured, and you can do direct deposit, mobile check deposit, and check ending all from the Acorns App.
SoFi vs. Acorns: Who are they best for?
SoFi is best for investors who want a little bit of everything — an automated account, the option to self-direct, free in-person investment advice, and it’s one of the few well-known brokerages to offer cryptocurrency. I want to stress the “little bit of everything” because SoFi still lacks some of the account types and tradable securities you find at a larger brokerage like T.D. Ameritrade or Fidelity.
Acorns is best for people who struggle to save. Acorns is a solid robo-advisory, but its spare-change style of investing may prove to some that they can afford to invest. That’s the real service you’re paying for when you sign up for Acorns.
Pros and cons: SoFi vs. Acorns
The final word — SoFi vs. Acorns
Acorns has some really attractive features for investors who struggle to save and think they don’t have enough money to invest. And being able to invest your spare change and the robo-advisor approach creates a really mindless way to invest.
However, when you compare Acorns to SoFi, with its $0 fees and more account options, Acorns may look less appealing.
Acorns has features that SoFi doesn’t have, and SoFi has features that Acorns doesn’t offer. So it all depends on what you’re looking for. If you want a robo-advisor and aren’t married to the spare-change mode, then SoFi is a great option. It’s free, offers real human guidance, and you can also self-direct your investments.
Stash is another good Acorns alternative. The pricing is similar, and you can invest in a pre-built portfolio or self-direct. Stash also offers socially responsible investment options.
Yes! SoFi Invest doesn’t charge management fees, commissions, and there are no account minimums. You are still charged regulatory fees from FINRA and the SEC, but that’s standard. You may encounter fees if you want to transfer shares out of SoFi to another brokerage instead of cashing out your account.
SoFi is free because of how it makes money. And you have to remember that SoFi offers a suite of financial services: student loan refinancing, mortgages, a newly launched credit card, and more.
In addition to income streams from those products, here’s how SoFi Invest (and many other brokerages) makes money on you:
- Earned interest on uninvested cash
- Earned interest by lending securities to institutions that need to borrow shares
- Rebates from high-frequency trading firms that execute orders, something known as payment-for-order-flow
- 1.25% markup charged on crypto
- Expense ratios on SoFi-branded ETFs
Related: How Does Robinhood Make Money?
Acorn is a 100% legitimate online brokerage, but some people don’t think Acorns is a good idea because it focuses on micro-investments.
I get it. Investing spare change alone isn’t going to be enough for retirement, and that’s the problem — you’re not investing enough.