Stash vs Acorns vs Robinhood 2021: Which App is Right for You?

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When it comes to choosing the best investing app, there are countless options. Three of the most popular options include Stash, Acorns, and Robinhood. However, depending on your investing preferences, these apps serve various needs, and you’ll almost certainly find one of them is better for you than the others. In this comparison of Stash vs Acorns vs Robinhood, I will share with you everything you need to know to find the best investing app for you!

Stash vs. Acorns vs. Robinhood Pinterest Pin

Let’s start with an overview of each of these services!

Stash Logo

About Stash

Stash is a fast-growing crossover between a micro-investing app and a traditional brokerage. With more than 5 million users, Stash has aimed to create greater stock market accessibility, allowing people to invest their spare change to start building wealth.

Stash offers three plan types:  Stash Beginner, Stash Growth, and Stash+.

Stash Beginner includes the Stash investing platform, the Stock-Back Card (more on that in a minute), banking and savings tools, and even $1,000 of life insurance! This tier comes in at just $1/month.

Stash Growth includes everything that is part of Stash Beginner, but it also unlocks the possibility to open a retirement account (both Roth and traditional IRAs). For the additional features, Stash Growth costs $3/month.

Finally, Stash+ includes everything in the growth plan plus investing for children, additional Stock-Back bonuses, and $10,000 of life insurance. Stash+ costs $9/month.

Features Unique to Stash

Stash allows you to invest in fractional shares of thousands of stocks and ETFs. Over time, Stash has moved to offer further investment flexibility to its clients – an area where it provides more investment options than competitors like Acorns. 

Additionally, Stash offers banking features for its clients with no overdraft fees, minimum balance, or hidden fees. The banking tools allow you to save automatically through features like rounding up purchases (i.e., investing spare change), and you can even budget in Stash. Finally, with Stash’s banking features, you can access your paycheck up to two days early.

While Stash’s banking features do win on fees, I believe there are better budgeting options (such as YNAB or Tiller Money). Additionally, if you manage your money such that getting your paycheck two days early is a game-changer for you, your budget probably needs work. 

One unique feature of Stash is its Stock-Back Debit Card. When you use the Stash Stock-Back Card, you will earn free stock from Stash! It is a unique feature, though admittedly, there are likely other better cash-back options with a traditional debit or credit card. 

Finally, while Stash providing life insurance as part of its subscriptions is interesting, the amounts are so small that it is likely not very meaningful. For this reason, life insurance is not a reason to choose Stash over its competitors. 

Acorns Logo

About Acorns

Acorns is the most popular micro-investing app. Acorns was developed on the premise that rounding up your spare change is an easy way to invest automatically and build wealth over time. Even if you don’t have lots to invest, anyone can sacrifice their spare change. 

With more than 8 million people now using Acorns, the platform’s success continues to grow. Here’s how it works. Acorns rounds up the spare change from your purchases and automatically invests in portfolios designed for you based on your investing goals. These portfolios use Modern Portfolio Theory principles – the “latest and greatest” for diversification and risk management. 

Acorns’ pricing structure is very similar to Stash in that it offers three tiers: Acorns Lite, Acorns Personal, and Acorns Family at $1/mo., $3/mo., and $5/mo. respectively. 

The cheapest tier is Acorns Lite which unlocks the core investing features, while Acorns Personal includes a retirement account option (Acorns Later) and a checking account option (Acorns Spend). Acorns Family offers everything included in Acorns Personal in addition to investment accounts for kids (Acorns Early). 

Features Unique to Acorns

Where Acorns really shines is its automated investing tools. The pre-built Acorns portfolios allow for instant diversification into stocks and bonds through various low-cost index ETF investments. Acorns will help determine the best portfolio for you based on your financial situation and goals.

Investments can be made automatically daily, weekly, or monthly, and Acorns will automatically rebalance your portfolio to keep you on track. 

Acorns also offers a feature called Acorns Earn, which allows you to earn money with over 350 brands like Apple, Home Depot, and Macy’s!

Robinhood Logo

About Robinhood

Robinhood is most akin to a traditional brokerage in that you can individually trade thousands of stocks, ETFs, and options. 

However, where Robinhood differs from a traditional brokerage is that all trades are commission-free. Robinhood was a pioneer in the commission-free trading space, and as a result, many conventional brokerage houses have followed suit. 

Features Unique to Robinhood

Whereas Stash and Acorns charge a monthly fee for their services, Robinhood is entirely free to use. However, this comes at a cost. That cost is that you don’t get any portfolio automation as you do with Acorns or Stash. 

One other unique feature of Robinhood is that it pays interest on uninvested funds. As of the time of this writing, Robinhood offers a 0.30% APY on uninvested funds. In your brokerage account, however, you’ll likely want to stay fully invested and seek an alternative banking solution that offers superior interest (like Ally or CIT Bank). 

Finally, Robinhood distances itself from the pack in that it offers the most flexibility in terms of investments. You can invest in options, trade on margin through Robinhood Gold (which I never recommend), and you can even trade cryptocurrencies through Robinhood Crypto. 

Now that we’ve covered Stash vs Acorns vs Robinhood basics, let’s get into some specifics about each of these investing apps. 

Types of Accounts

There are many different types of investment accounts, including individual accounts, retirement accounts, joint accounts, trust accounts, and custodial accounts.

However, the two most common are individual accounts (which are taxable) and retirement accounts (which have tax advantages). 

I always advise to max out retirement accounts before individual accounts because of the tax advantages. If you don’t have an IRA, you’ll want an investing app with this option. 

Unfortunately, Robinhood does not offer an IRA option, and the IRA option comes with an added fee at both Acorns and Stash. However, as you grow your account balance, this small monthly fee becomes less critical. To unlock the retirement account option at Acorns or Stash, you’ll need to sign up for Acorns Personal or Stash Growth, respectively, both of which come in at $3/month. 

Additionally, both Acorns and Stash offer investment accounts for children at their top subscription tier, which is not supported at Robinhood. 

Winner:  Tie between Acorns and Stash

Asset Classes

Asset Classes

Investment options are the area with the most distinction amongst Stash vs Acorns vs Robinhood.

Let’s start with Acorns, as it offers the most limited investment options. Acorns has five pre-built portfolio options from which to choose based on your investment goals and risk tolerance. While some might complain this isn’t very flexible, I would argue it’s by design. The truth is this. You don’t need 1,000 investment options. You need a few. It’s possible to achieve excellent diversification with as little as two funds. So, if you’re seeking maximum diversification with complete automation, Acorns excels.

However, if you’re seeking further investment options (such as individual stock selection) with some level of automation, this is where Stash stands out. Stash offers thousands of stocks and ETFs from which you can choose. The ETF options include everything from stocks to bonds to commodities. 

Similarly, Robinhood offers thousands of stocks and ETFs. Additionally, Robinhood stands out by offering stock options and crypto trading. 

Sadly, none of these investment apps allow direct bond investments, but it is possible to access this asset class through ETFs.

When it comes to the sheer number of asset classes and investment options, Robinhood is the winner. Still, it is possible to achieve similar levels of diversification through the pre-built Acorns portfolios. 

Winner:  Robinhood

Minimum Deposit

When you’re just starting out investing, it’s okay to start small. Both Acorns and Stash come with only a $5 minimum deposit, while Robinhood has no minimum deposit.

While Robinhood is technically a bit less, we view the barrier to entry for all of these platforms to be inconsequential. 

Winner:  Tie

Fees

Fees

The fee structures of Stash, Acorns, and Robinhood vary. Both Stash and Acorns are $1/month for their regular investing platform, but that fee rises to $3/month for a retirement account option. On price, this makes these two services competitive, but if you only have a small amount invested, this can add up. 

Imagine that you have $100 invested, and the management fee is $12/year ($1/month). This works out to a 12% management fee, which is exceptionally high. 

However, as you have more invested, this management fee becomes more reasonable.  For example, if you have $2,500 invested, a $12/year management fee is just under 0.5%. While this is still a tad steep, it is reasonable for the level of automation offered by Acorns and Stash. 

I think Acorns and Stash are a great way to get started investing, but I would encourage you to scale your account balance as quickly as possible to amortize the fee over a greater number of investment dollars.

By contrast, Robinhood does not charge a monthly management fee, nor does it charge commissions on investments. For this reason, Robinhood is the lowest cost option of the three. However, it’s a case of “you get what you pay for.” What you’re paying for with Acorns and Stash is the automated portfolios that require minimal thought and effort, and you know you’ll be buying something diversified. 

Winner:  Robinhood

Portfolio Rebalancing

If you’re looking to automate your investment portfolio, you’ll want a portfolio that handles rebalancing for you. Robinhood does not offer rebalancing because it does not provide any pre-built portfolios.

Similarly, Stash does not automatically rebalance your portfolio, though it will alert you if you are not adequately diversified.

Acorns is the clear winner in this category. It is a fully automated investment solution, and this includes portfolio rebalancing. Again, this is where Acorns earns its fee – it does most of the hard work for you.

Winner:  Acorns

Accessibility

In terms of accessibility, Acorns, Stash, and Robinhood all have tremendous mobile apps. Their interfaces are intuitive, and which is “better” is primarily a matter of personal preference.

For this reason, you can’t go wrong.

Winner:  Tie

Security

When it comes to security, all three of these investing apps offer the types of protection you’d expect.

For example, Stash has SIPC insurance on your investments, and uninvested deposits are covered by FDIC insurance. Additionally, Stash uses 256-bit, bank-level security, biometric recognition, and more to keep you safe. You can learn more about Stash’s security policy here.

Similar to Stash, Acorns accounts are SIPC-protected and have 256-bit security. Acorns uses multiple account safeguards like multi-factor authentication, automatic logouts, and account alerts. If you are interested in learning more about Acorns’ safety, you can read more here.

Robinhood offers a similar suite of security features, including SIPC insurance, encryption, and multi-factor authentication. However, one concern with Robinhood is that the service had numerous outages on critical trading days (such as when the market was in turmoil in March 2020 due to COVID-19). While Robinhood is secure, frequent outages have cost traders, so it’s something to note. You can check out Robinhood’s security practices to learn more. 

Winner:  Tie between Acorns and Stash

Customer Support

Because Acorns, Stash, and Robinhood are low-cost investment apps, they don’t offer the same service level as full-service brokerages such as Charles Schwab, Vanguard, or Fidelity. 

With all three of these services, support is provided primarily online through email and contact forms. Unlike a traditional brokerage, you can’t easily find a phone number to call for help. 

Notably, however, all three of these services offer robust online learning and help centers that should help answer your questions.  

Winner:  Tie

Stash vs Acorns vs Robinhood Pinterest Pin 2

Stash vs Acorns vs Robinhood:  Which is Best?

We’ve now covered a lot of info comparing Stash vs Acorns vs Robinhood. So, at this stage, you’re likely wondering, which is better:  Stash, Acorns, or Betterment?

The answer? It depends.

Depending on your investment knowledge and desired level of portfolio automation, you will find one of these services is better than the others for you.

If you’re looking for the highest level of automation, including pre-built portfolios and automatic portfolio rebalancing, you’ll want to go with Acorns. It is simply the best micro-investing app there is, and it allows you to access exceptionally well-diversified portfolios, all with maximum ease and reasonable costs.

However, perhaps you’re looking for something with a bit more flexibility but still want some support in building a portfolio. In this case, Stash is the way to go. Stash offers guidance on building portfolios, but it offers individual stocks from which to choose, unlike Acorns.

Finally, if you want the most flexible brokerage account, Robinhood is the best amongst this group. Robinhood allows you to trade stocks, ETFs, options, and cryptocurrencies. However, I believe there are better services than Robinhood that offer similar features, such as M1 Finance. Also, M1 offers some portfolio automation, which makes it similar to Stash, albeit at a lower cost. You can check out this After School Finance comparison of M1 Finance vs. Robinhood to learn more about how those two services compare.

When it comes to investing, the most important thing you can do is to get started. Any one of these services can help you meet your investing goals. So, get started with Acorns, Stash, or Robinhood today and start reaching your investing goals! 

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