Investing > Stash vs Acorns

Stash vs. Acorns

Both Stash and Acorns feature popular investment models. One focuses on automated savings, while the other aims to increase investor education.

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Reviewed by
Updated May 27, 2022

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Stash and Acorns both typify the maxim that necessity invariably becomes the mother of invention. One of capitalism’s foundational cornerstones is creating surplus-value by addressing the unmet needs of an underserved market, and it drives these apps market strategy.

These needs are mostly challenges faced by investors who don’t have the slightest idea or sufficient means on how to invest.

Until recently, most of these lacked any reprieve from their predicament: according to research from Cerulli Associates, 71% of Americans (U.S. households with less than $100,000 to invest) don’t have enough savings to be worth the while of most financial advisers.

Fortunately, Brandon Krieg, Stash’s CEO, says that they are focused on changing this dynamic: “Stash is on a mission to empower a new generation of investors, giving everyone access to financial opportunity.”

Both Stash and Acorns are part of a wave of companies attempting to lower the barriers to entry that have excluded these groups of investors for so long. But is Acorns or Stash better?1

Accounts & Fees
Management fees

$1, $3, or $9/month

$1, $2, or $3/month

Account Minimum

$0

$5

Account Types
  • Individual brokerage accounts
  • Online debit accounts
  • Traditional and Roth IRAs
  • Custodial accounts
  • Individual non-retirement accounts
  • Traditional & roth IRAs
General
Best for
  • Investor education
  • Socially responsible investing
  • Hands-off investing
  • Investors who have difficulty saving
Promotion

$5 bonus

None

Human advisor?
Rating
Accounts & Fees

Management fees

$1, $3, or $9/month

$1, $2, or $3/month

Account Minimum

$0

$5

Account Types

  • Individual brokerage accounts
  • Online debit accounts
  • Traditional and Roth IRAs
  • Custodial accounts
  • Individual non-retirement accounts
  • Traditional & roth IRAs
General

Best for

  • Investor education
  • Socially responsible investing
  • Hands-off investing
  • Investors who have difficulty saving

Promotion

$5 bonus

None

Human advisor?

They are both startups that target these first-time investors and have been busy carving out a niche for themselves in the competitive, crowded world of Fintech. These micro-investing platforms allow you to start investing with a little amount of money, compared with more traditional brokerages.

“We’re driven by the belief that anyone can grow wealth,” says Noah Kerner, Acorns CEO. The company ostensibly commissioned its 2017 Money Matters Report to get a better understanding of the public’s investing habits.

General Overview 🔍

In a nutshell, Stash and Acorns are both competing for novice investors who want to start and grow an investment portfolio but lack the expertise or time to do so.

But somewhere afterward, their business models begin to diverge.

How far?

Well, this article is intended to delve into these differences — to compare and contrast their features so that the consumer will be capable of making an informed decision on which of these two is better suited for them.

What is Stash? 🤔

Stash doesn’t invest for you — the platform aims to teach you how to invest. Many prefer the flat fee structure, though the access to socially responsible investing is making waves.

Fast Facts

  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: $1, $3, or $9 per month
  • Best for: New investors seeking education
  • Highlight: Unparalleled access to Socially Responsible Investing portfolios

Ratings

  • Expense Ratios: 7/10
  • Account Types: 7/10
  • Investment Options: 9/10
  • Management Fees: 8.5/10
  • Responsible Investing: 10/10
  • Human Advisors: 0/10
  • Overall: 6/10
Visit Stash on Stash’s website

Investor Warning: All investments involve risk, including loss of principal. The historical performance data for individual securities quoted on the Stash platform represents past performance, does not guarantee future results, is provided “as is” and solely for information purposes, is not advice or for trading purposes, may be subject to pricing delays, should not be used for tax reporting, may not reflect actual future performance, and is gross of Stash fees.

If there is a word association that would encapsulate what Stash embodies, then it would be that Stash is the app that seeks to unify your spending, savings, and investing1 all under the same umbrella.

Stash is relatively recent, launched in 2015 with the quest of providing an all-digital offering of financial services to a younger demographic to assist them to spend judiciously, save prudently, and invest wisely.

What is Acorns? 💭

Unlike Stash, Acorns is a bona fide robo-advisor. Its business model is based on the old-fashioned concept of saving spare change; but instead of doing it crudely in a jar, Acorns takes these infinitesimal amounts from everyday purchases and turns them into an investment portfolio.

Acorns rounds up everyday transactions, using the “spare change” to fund investments. Those who find it difficult to save on their own love the service, while most people in general are a fan of the flat fee structure.

Fast Facts

  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: $1, $2, or $3 per month, depending on the account type
  • Ideal for: New investors who want to save money with minimal effort
  • Automatic rebalancing: Yes
  • Tax-loss harvesting: No
  • Promotion: Free for college students
  • Advice: No human advisor available

Ratings

  • Expense Ratios:9/10
  • Account Types:6/10
  • Investment Options:8/10
  • Fees & Account Minimums:8.5/10
  • Responsible Investing:0/10
  • Human Advisors:0/10
  • Rebalancing:7/10
  • Overall:6/10
Visit Acorns on Acorns’ website

Investor Warning: Investing with Acorns involves risk, including loss of principal. Any references to past performance, regarding financial markets or otherwise, do not indicate or guarantee future results. Forward-looking statements, including without limitations investment outcomes and projections, are hypothetical and educational in nature. The results of any hypothetical projections can and may differ from actual investment results had the strategies been deployed in actual securities accounts. Prospective investors should consult their own financial and legal advisors about risks associated with securities and the suitability of investing in such securities.

Acorns operating philosophy is akin to its name: since mighty oaks start as small acorns, the moral it conveys is that it is wise not to neglect the seemingly inconsequential, because even a vibrant investment culture can be built from little things.

With the Acorns symbolism, it is equally poetic that it was started by a father and son entrepreneurial team in Australia in 2014.

Acorns helps you invest by rounding up your debit and credit card purchases to the nearest dollar, subsequently investing these in on behalf of the customer in a portfolio consisting of low-cost exchange-traded funds (EFTs).

Stash vs Acorns Performance 📊

Both companies come packing with an impressive suite of features, however, they are different. Choosing one advisor over the other will be a matter of personal preference and your desired investing strategy.

Stash 💵

Stash comes integrated with a social compass. It not only provides people with a platform to invest small amounts but also gives them the opportunity to invest in something they also believe in.

As a result, people who believe that their portfolio should be an extension — or at least reflection who they are, are provided with the chance to invest accordingly.

Stash gives you more control than most of these digital investment apps. Stash strives to provide a more personalized investing approach.

Unlike other micro-investing apps and even robo-advisors that select investments for their customers, Stash ensures you have a mix of securities based upon your investor profile characteristics.

The risk level of each fund is displayed once it is clicked upon, along with the companies that it is comprised of, its underlying security (most likely an ETF), and its ticker symbol.

Through Stash’s app, you’ll be able view fund-specific information such as its dividend yield, most recent share price, and it’s year-to-date change. There is even a link strategically placed to route a user to the fund’s website.

Stash comes with an in-built educational platform that guides and teaches you how to invest as you go along it.

The designers at Stash invested considerable thought and effort in its aesthetics, making the app’s design one of its strongest features. Its user interface is easy to use and intuitive to understand, astutely displaying the necessary information when it makes the most sense.

Just as its usage is smooth and thoughtful, its sign-up process is also as seamless. You just need to provide the normal identifying information you would anticipate from a financial institution. These include details that would help to determine your risk tolerance level and the types of accounts appropriate for you.

Apart from the thoughtful design, another thing that sets Stash apart from its peers is that it probably gives you more choice than any other investing app.

Stash has provided Stock-Back® Card2 transactions, which is an innovation that allows their customers to earn shares of stock or ETFs just by simply making purchases with their Stash debit card.

Acorns 🌰

Acorns offers access to its services from either its website or app; its app has also won numerous awards based on its attractive design.

Acorns doesn’t invest your money randomly or on a whim, but does so based on your portfolio settings. Depending on the ETF market that the stock resides, the investment can take up to three days to clear.

One of the most distinctive features of Acorns’ is Round-Ups. While it is tempting to scoff at the negligible amount rounded up per transaction because it doesn’t initially look like a lot, these eventually add up over time. And because it can be implemented automatically, there is no fear of forgetfulness in transfering the money.

Acorns FoundMoney Program
Acorns’ Found Money program features cashback perks.

Acorns’ cashback program is called Found Money. Acorns’ users who shop through the Acorns’ platform get a percentage of the money spent at partners’ stores instead of receiving a percentage of the purchase back. After 30 days of making a purchase, Acorns will deposit Found Money funds into your account.

Acorns investment strategy involves uses ETFs pulled from seven investment classes, namely: domestic stock, government and corporate bonds, international and large company stock, small company stock, real estate, emerging markets. Your asset allocation, which signifies how much you are invested in each security is a factor of your risk tolerance and profile.

Acorns supports a plethora of accounts and features such as personal savings, both traditional and Roth IRA, SEP-IRA, and 401(k) rollover.

Stash vs Acorns: Fees Compared 💰

Fees are usually the most crucial criterion in the decision making process. Finding the right advisor can only be done if it suits your pocket.

Stash 💵

Stash Invest fees depend on the type of account selected: beginner, stash+, or growth

Stash lets you invest as little as $5 in stocks and ETFs you can choose based on your goals, income, values, and even companies that you admire.

Stash’s monthly subscription fee is a tiered structure. The first of these is the Beginner which costs $1 per month for access to an individual taxable account, banking, and the Stock-Back® Card.

This is followed by a $3 per month Growth tier which provides access to everything in Beginner plus the Smart Portfolio account and retirement account. At the final tier is a subscription that encapsulates all the previous ones, in addition to providing access to custodial accounts such as Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) and Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) accounts. This subscription tier is called Stash+, and you’ll get it for $9  a month. When it comes to Stash vs Acorns fees, both platforms offer similar fees for their most basic package, but Stash fees are higher for the more advanced plans.

Although Stash doesn’t charge you any add-on fees for trades, you’ll, however, incur ETF fees after each purchase made. These are fees outside Stash’s direct service, and it is imperative that an investor should be cognizant of these extra fees.

Since some of these securities come with high expense ratios, they could be quite the bummer for unsuspecting investors by incurring hidden costs. This is because most of these costs aren’t well disclosed to new investors to begin with, likely confusing them as to why they are experiencing the additional cost bloat.

Acorns 🌰

Acorns differs from most robo-advisors because unlike them, it doesn’t charge fees based on how much you have in your account balance, but just demands a flat management fee. However, if you have at least a $1million to invest, then Acorns might offer you a different management fee.

Acorns tailors its account to its user demographics in several ways. There isn’t any minimum account required but you’ll need at least $5 before you can start investing.

Screenshot of Acorns Pricing
Acorns fees depend on the account type selected: Invest, Invest Later, or Invest Spend.

Acorns Core 💶

Acorns Core just costs $1 per month, which makes sense since Acorns is targeting people just starting out like college students. Acorns Core is a run-of-the-mill taxable investment account that is accompanied by a cash-back-for-your-portfolio feature. This feature allows you to spend money with Found Money, which is an Acorns partners program.

College students who prove they have a valid .edu address don’t have to pay for using Acorns Core, for a 4-year duration.

Acorns Later 💵

Acorns Later will cost you $2, and this extra expense will net you either a Roth or traditional individual retirement account. Note that this is a tax-deductible IRA plan.

In essence, this tier is actually Acorns Core + Acorns Later as the previous account is subsumed with the current.

Acorns Spend 💷

Now for the bank-breaking sum of $3, you’ll get the most expensive plan, which happens to be Acorns Spend. This plan includes a Visa debit card that is connected to the Acorns automatic investing services. You accrue zero fees on this account.

Just like the previous case, this plan is essentially Acorns Core + Acorns Later + Acorns Spend.

Stash and Acorns: Account Setup 👤

It’s not a secret that these advisors are trying to get as many investors as possible, hence their whole account setup is quite easy, lets find out just how easy it truly is.

Stash 💵

Since the beginner investor is the center of gravity around which Stash orbit’s, its setup process equally reflects this simplicity. When a prospective investor creates a Stash account, the Stash app is there to navigate them through the on-boarding process. It poses a series of questions to the prospective investor in order to collect personal details along with other pertinent information.

Along the way, it uses other relevant information to build an investor profile that presents the choice of risk tolerance among the following: conservative, moderate, and aggressive. Other supplementary information underpinning the profile creation process are details like income, net worth, life status, and so on.

Prior to setting up a debit account (via Green Dot Bank), the customer will have to create a taxable investment account.

Individual, retirement, and custodial accounts are supported by Stash, but the app remains silent on joint accounts, so it is safe to assume this isn’t currently being offered.

🏟️ Are you a fan of investing from your smartphone? Check out our top stock trading apps.

Goal Setting 🥅

Stash provides a wide assortment of “how-to articles,” and a general array of broad-based educational tools. You can find the Stash Learn Portal on the app and web, but there’s no longer Stash Coach.

Based on its disclosures, Stash’s investment advice is supplied based primarily on the following principles:

  • ☑️ Passive investing
  • ☑️ Providing equities as an asset class
  • ☑️ Diversification
  • ☑️ Providing investment advice, albeit one adjusted for personal beliefs and to overcome emotional bias

Stash Pros and Cons 🆚

Pros

  • Incorporates automatic savings3
  • The Stock-Back® Card
  • Top-notch educational resources
  • Convenient low account minimums

Cons

  • Stash debit account doesn’t earn you any interest

Acorns 🌰

It gathers a user’s personal information in addition to other income and lifestyle details in order to set up your financial goals and gauge your risk tolerance.

In setting up an account, the user has to connect with one or more debit and/or credit cards to their Acorns account.

Subsequently, Acorns will round each purchase made on these cards to the next dollar and save to the customers Acorns account. For instance, if you buy coffee for $3.25, then spend $8.75 for lunch, and splurge $30.02 for a sweater; at the end of these purchases, Acorns will dutifully round up all of these transactions and eventually credit $1.98 to the customer at the end of the day.

🏁 Not sure where to start with a broker? Review our best stock brokers for beginners.

The customer has a choice of Acorns’ portfolio from which the change will eventually be invested into. These choices represent five investment portfolios, each a variation of the standard advisor-speak for the group of investor categories often ranging from conservative to the aggressive.

Example of Moderately Aggressive Acorns Portfolio
With Acorns, you’ll be able to choose between five investment portfolios.

As a rule of thumb, the longer your time horizon, and the higher your risk tolerance, then the more aggressive your investments in higher-risk assets that possess higher growth potential will likely be.

Specifically for Acorns, there are the five prebuilt portfolios, namely: conservative, moderately conservative, moderate, moderately aggressive or aggressive.

Users have the liberty of selecting how they want their fund deposits to operate; with the more typical automatic deposit, or the can otherwise choose daily, weekly, and monthly deposits.

While Acorns is a robo-advisor, it offers fewer ETF options than its counterparts.

Also some of its peers such as Wealthfront and Betterment, for instance, provide more robust explanations of their investment strategies. In this regard, Acorns somewhat unspoken message to their investors is “don’t concern yourselves with the pesky details, let us worry about the technicalities.”

In their defense, this makes it easier for Acorns to target young people new to investing; however, others might want more transparency in how “the bacon is prepared.”

Acorns has several other demerits as a robo-advisor. Its services are entirely digital, which is quite constraining if you are an investor who hopes to do more than just invest in the seven offered ETFs or in other types of funds. Moreover, several other robo-advisors provide a more versatile range of account types such as 529 college savings plans.

Therefore, if you are a serious investor who wants to interact and rub minds with a real person with sophisticated investment savvy, then it is best you go looking somewhere else. In this regard, if you have more than $25,000 in assets that you are willing to invest, it perhaps behooves you to get a human advisor instead.

Acorns Pros and Cons ⚔️

Pros

  • Implements automatic rebalancing
  • Provides fractional shares
  • Robust educational content
  • No minimums required
  • Cash back available from select retailers

Cons

  • It doesn’t support joint savings.
  • It doesn’t support 529 college savings
  • Lacks human advisor complement
  • Investment options are limited
  • Lacks direct indexing and tax loss harvesting like most robo-advisors

General Comparison ⚖️

Stash and Acorns, like most robo-advisors and even micro-investing platforms, are guided by the operating philosophy of the Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT).

MPT revolves around the concept of investing in a diversified portfolio, preferably spanning several asset classes. The object of this diversification is to lower the risk exposure of the investor while maximizing their returns.

Incidentally, the father of MPT, Harry Markowitz just so happens to be an advisor for Acorns.

Unlike many other robo-advisors, Acorns conveniently charges a flat fee for its services, so you aren’t thrown for a loop on the cost that using the service is going to incur each month.

Great, right?

Unfortunately, it is only when your account balance is large enough that you begin to reap the benefits of Acorns’ flat management fee. This is because Acorns fixed account fee actually translates into a high percentage of your assets if you don’t have substantial money in your account; in that case, the fixed monthly fee no longer looks like a good deal.

A short explanation is in order: assume you are a small-time investor with about $500 in your Acorns Core account. Spending a paltry dollar a month sounds awesome, right?

Unfortunately, things aren’t always what they appear to be. This is because the $1 fee translates to paying 0.2% every month.

For 12 months, this basically means that you’ll end up paying 2.4% of your assets under management (AUM). For a better perspective, other robo-advisors normally charge an annual rate of 0.50% or less! As you can see, you are widely overpaying to use Acorns if you have a small amount like $500 in AUM.

You’ll pay even more if you opted to use one of the Acorns’ more costly plans. However, percentage-wise, if you have much more in your account, then Acorns’ fee converts into a relatively low payment. An account balance of $5,000 means that you’ll only be coughing up an annual fee down to about 0.24%, which is competitively close to what is charged by other robo-advisors.

While this a significant improvement, you’ll still need about $10,000 with a retirement account like Acorns Later before you can approach the commensurate 0.25% that other robo-advisors charge.

Stash vs Acorns Summary 🎬

There are several advantages of an investment app, but one is most notable: because of the streamlined mobile interface, it makes the investing process as simple as possible, especially in this era where most people are adept at using smartphones.

Investment apps such as Stash and Acorns facilitate the vision of providing new investors with an easier path to investing by removing the obstacles of complexity and cost.

Therefore, if you have found it difficult to save, or have been confused with investing in general, then Acorns and Stash were designed with you in mind. But is Acorns or Stash better?

Although they have similar objectives, pursue them with different strategies. The choice is up to you to decide which of these methods would help you more effectively meet your investment objectives.

Paid non-client endorsement. See Apple App Store and Google Play reviews. View Important disclosures.”

Investment advisory services offered by Stash Investments LLC, an SEC registered investment adviser. Investing involves risk and investments may lose value.
Stash Subscription fee starts at $1/ month. You’ll also bear the standard fees and expenses reflected in the pricing of the ETFs in your account, plus fees for various ancillary services charged by Stash and the Custodian. Please see the Advisory Agreement for details. Other fees apply to the bank account. Please see the Deposit Account Agreement.
Clients may incur ancillary fees charged by Stash and/or it’s custodian that are not included in the monthly subscription fee.
A “Smart Portfolio” is a Discretionary Managed account whereby Stash has full authority to manage. A “Personal Portfolio:” You can choose your own investments only in a “Personal Portfolio” which is a Non-Discretionary Managed account.

1 Stash offers access to investment and banking accounts under each subscription plan. Each type of account is subject to different regulations and limitations. See the Advisory Agreement and the Deposit Account Agreement for more information.
2 All rewards earned through use of the Stash Visa Debit card (Stock-Back® Card) will be fulfilled by Stash Investments LLC. Rewards will go to your Stash personal investment account, which is not FDIC insured. You will bear the standard fees and expenses reflected in the pricing of the investments that you earn, plus fees for various ancillary services charged by Stash. Stash Stock-Back® Rewards is not sponsored or endorsed by Green Dot Bank, Green Dot Corporation, Visa U.S.A., or any of their respective affiliates. What doesn’t count: Cash withdrawals, money orders, prepaid cards, and P2P payment. If stock of the merchant is not available for a qualifying purchase, the security will be in shares of a predetermined ETF or from a list of predetermined publicly-traded companies available on the Stash Platform. See full terms and conditions.
 3 Stash does not offer an interest-bearing savings account.
4 Offer is subject to Terms and Conditions. You must complete within the specific time period included in this offer: (i) successfully complete the designated registration process of opening an individual taxable brokerage account advised by Stash Investments LLC that is in good standing (a “Personal Portfolio”), as displayed by the interactive instructions shown via the Stash platform, (ii) link a funding account (e.g. an external bank account) to your Personal Portfolio, AND (iii) initiate and complete a minimum deposit of at least five dollars ($5.00) into your Personal Portfolio.

Comparison Corner

Find out how Acorns and Stash stack up against other competition.

All reviews, research, news and assessments of any kind on The Tokenist are compiled using a strict editorial review process by our editorial team. Neither our writers nor our editors receive direct compensation of any kind to publish information on tokenist.com. Our company, Tokenist Media LLC, is community supported and may receive a small commission when you purchase products or services through links on our website. Click here for a full list of our partners and an in-depth explanation on how we get paid.

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