Acorns vs. Stash: Which is Smarter for Beginning Investors?

Acorns and Stash both have their advantages — but which app is best for you?
Last updated Oct 7, 2020 | By Miranda Marquit
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If you’re hoping to grow your wealth, one of the best ways to accomplish that goal is by investing. Getting started can feel like a daunting task, however — especially when you start investing during a recession. The good news is that the process is probably simpler than you think.

Both Acorns and Stash are investment apps that let you invest small amounts of money, and you don’t need to be a financial expert to get started. In this Acorns vs. Stash comparison, we’ll look at how these apps work, how they’re different, and the benefits and drawbacks of each.

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Acorns vs. Stash

Acorns and Stash are both micro-investing apps that allow you to create investment portfolios. Both have some similar features, including low minimums, the ability to make small automatic transfers, and the choice to connect your payment methods and round up your purchases to invest the pocket change.

Here’s a quick look at how they compare:

Acorns Stash
Minimum investment $5 $5
Management fees $1 - $5 per month $1 - $9 per month4
Asset classes
  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • Real estate
  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • Commodities
Account types available
  • Individual
  • IRA (Traditional, Roth, SEP)
  • Personal checking
  • Individual
  • IRA (Traditional, Roth)1
  • Custodial2
  • Personal checking
Features
  • Round-ups
  • Found Money
  • Debit card
  • Knowledge base
  • Round-ups
  • Individual stocks
  • Debit card3
  • Knowledge base
Best for... Getting started and increasing your portfolio automatically First-time investors who want access to custodial accounts

How does Acorns work?

Acorns is a micro-investing app that allows you to begin investing money in a preset portfolio of ETFs. Acorns helps you construct a portfolio based on your risk tolerance and timeline. Acorns ETFs include a mix of small- and large-cap stocks, government and other types of bonds, and real estate.

In addition to being able to set up regular contributions with Acorns, it’s also possible for you to use the round-ups feature to invest your pocket change. With this feature, your purchases are rounded up to the nearest dollar, and the difference is transferred to your Acorns account. You can also turbo-charge your round-ups. For example, you can set your round-ups for 3X. If you spend $1.80, the base amount for the round-up would normally be 20 cents. However, with the 3X turbo-charge, the round-up is 60 cents.

Acorns also offers a Found Money feature. With Found Money, you can shop with partners and receive cash back in the form of money deposited into your Acorns account and invested for your future benefit. Acorns includes a browser extension that notifies you if you’re on a site that offers Found Money.

You’ll be hard-pressed to connect with a human when you use Acorns, though. There’s an extensive FAQ section and a large knowledge base of articles, but if you have more specific issues, you need to fill out a form and send an email. If you download the app, you can get in-app chat support.

Advantages of Acorns

  • Small minimums: You can invest with as little as $5.
  • Round-ups: Automatically invest your spare change with Acorns’ round-ups feature.
  • Found Money: Found Money gives you cash back when you shop with partners.
  • Retirement options: Invest in a traditional or Roth IRA, or SEP IRA, if you’re a small business owner.

Disadvantages of Acorns

  • Limited investment choices: With Acorns, you can invest in ETFs. If you want more investment choices, you may want to look elsewhere.
  • Relatively high fee for small accounts: If you invest only a small amount with Acorns, the fees can add up quickly.
  • No human advisors: Acorns does not offer the option to talk to a human advisor about your investments. If this is important to you, it’s best to look elsewhere.
  • No custodial accounts: You cannot open a custodial account for your child with Acorns.

How does Stash work?

Stash offers a robust savings and investing platform that allows you to start small and grow your wealth. While most of Stash’s offerings are centered on ETFs,6 the app also offers a limited number of individual stocks. With Stash, you can choose the investments you want based on different themes. Themes include clean energy, defense, and real estate, among others.

Stash allows you to set up automatic contributions to your investment account5, and you can also set up round-ups. If you choose to use this feature, Stash will round up your debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and invest that money for you. These round-ups allow you to automatically invest more in your portfolio and grow your wealth over time.

One of the unique features that Stash offers, which Acorns does not, is the ability to open custodial accounts.2 With a Stash+ account, you can open investment accounts for up to two children and help them save. Stash also has a checking product that can be accessed with a debit card.3

You won’t get access to a human advisor with Stash. The website offers a lot of educational articles as well as a detailed FAQ section that can answer many questions. If you need more specific help, you can submit a question and Stash will get back to you.

Advantages of Stash

  • Small minimums: Start investing with as little as $5.
  • Custodial accounts: You can open custodial accounts for up to two children with Stash+.2
  • Different themes: Stash offers thematic investing that reflects values.
  • Individual stocks: With Stash, you can choose to in individual stocks.

Disadvantages of Stash

  • Fees: Management fees can get expensive, especially if you opt for a Stash+ account.
  • No human advisors: You do not get access to a human advisor with Stash, no matter which account you choose.
  • Limited investment options: With Stash, you can invest in stocks, bonds, and ETFs.6 If you’d prefer to invest in a different asset, you may want to look elsewhere.

4 important differences between Acorns and Stash

When evaluating Acorns vs. Stash, it’s important to consider the differences between the two. They have many similarities, including the simplicity of the offerings and limited investment choices. Plus, both offer round-ups and charge a flat fee based on the account features you’re looking for. However, there are some differences between the two. Here’s what you need to know as you decide which is likely to best meet your needs.

1. Features

Neither of these platforms offer the types of robust features, like tax-loss harvesting, that you might see when you use a robo advisor like Betterment or Wealthfront. And although Acorns and Stash have similar features, those features have some important differences.

Acorns offers automatic rebalancing of your account, based on your stated goals and your portfolio. Stash doesn’t offer rebalancing — you’re more in control of the makeup of your portfolio.

With Acorns, you also get the extra Found Money feature. With this feature, you’ll receive cash back that is automatically invested for your future. If you have the Acorns debit card, you earn a 10% bonus when you swipe, and the money is automatically invested.

On the other hand, Stash offers its Stock-Back® feature for its debit account customers. With Stock-Back®, you receive rewards in the form of fractional shares of a stock or fund when you shop.3

2. Fees

Both Acorns and Stash charge flat fees. For those with small account balances, this can result in an out-sized fee. However, as your account balance grows, the monthly fee can be an advantage. Both platforms offer tiered fees.

With Acorns, you can pay $1 per month for a Basic account that allows you to invest using an individual taxable account. You can access round-ups and Found Money. If you move to the Personal account and pay $3 per month, you can access the different IRA choices and a debit account.

Stash, on the other hand, has three pricing tiers. With the Stash Beginner plan, you get a basic investing and a Stash debit account for $1/month.4 The Stash Growth plan costs $3 per month,4 and it offers retirement account access in addition to the features you’d get with the Beginner plan. Finally, if you want access to the custodial accounts, you can get it with a Stash+ account for $9/month.4 The Stash+ account comes with a monthly market insight report.

3. Expense ratios

Funds typically charge an annual expense ratio, which covers the cost of management and operating fees. Expense ratios are usually a percentage of the fund’s total assets. You can find information about the expense ratio in a fund’s prospectus.

In general, Acorns has lower expense ratios on their ETFs than Stash. Acorns expense ratios range from .03% to .18%. Stash, on the other hand, has an average of .23% for its ETFs, though the average on socially responsible investment ETFs is higher, averaging closer to .34%.4 You might find some ETFs with higher or lower expense ratios.

4. Types of accounts

When choosing between investment accounts, you also need to consider the types of accounts offered.

Both Stash and Acorns offer individual taxable investment accounts. You can also get Traditional or Roth IRA portfolios with both. However, Acorns also has a SEP IRA available, whereas Stash does not.

The biggest difference, though, is that Stash allows you to add custodial accounts for up to two children.2 These accounts help your kids grow their wealth through investing. Acorns doesn’t offer any custodial accounts.

Acorns vs. Stash: which investment app should you choose?

When choosing between Acorns vs. Stash, it’s important to consider your long-term needs. Both of these accounts are ideal if you want to start investing with a small amount of money and use investing as a way to meet your savings goals.

However, there are different ways to benefit from these accounts. If you want access to a SEP IRA, then Acorns is likely to be a better choice. Additionally, the Found Money features offered by Acorns can help you take rebate shopping to the next level, as anything you get back is invested, which multiples the benefit over time.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for access to a debit account for just $1 per month,7 Stash offers that. Plus, Stash offers a wider variety of ETFs6 than Acorns, and it allows users to invest in individual stocks. You have more control over your portfolio with Stash than what you get with Acorns. Plus, you have the added benefit of being able to open custodial accounts.2

FAQs about Acorns vs. Stash

Is Acorns a good investing app?

Acorns is a good investment app for investors who want to invest small amounts of money and reap potential benefits down the road. It’s a simple and convenient investing app.

Can you actually make money on Stash?

Yes, you can make money on Stash if your investments gain value. However, as with any investment, there’s no guarantee they will gain value.8 Whether you make money or lose money depends on a variety of factors, including market conditions, how much you invest, and where you invest.

Which investment app is better than Acorns?

There are a number of investment apps that might meet your needs better than Acorns, depending on what you’re looking for. Check out our picks for the best investment apps to find one that closely aligns with your needs and goals.

The bottom line on Stash vs. Acorns

There are a number of investing apps available. What works best for you depends on your situation. Both Stash and Acorns are relatively inexpensive and have low investment minimums.

However, it’s important to note that both of these apps might not have all the features you’re looking for. Think about what matters most to you, whether you want more control, or if it’s important to you to have custodial accounts.

Once you understand what you need, it’s easier to find the best brokerage account for you.

Stash Benefits

  • Get $5 to make your first investment
  • Invest in stocks, bonds, and ETFs
  • Fractional shares available
  • Start investing with just $1