March 5, 2020 12:00 PM PT

Stash vs Acorns vs Robinhood

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Stash, Acorns, and Robinhood each offer unique ways to invest on a mobile platform. But which one can take your investment strategy to new heights? Read this to find out if one stands out above the rest.

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Investing has become easier as the world has moved into a digital age. Long gone are the days where you need to contact a broker and pay their astronomical fees in order to set yourself up for future financial success.

App-based investing platforms are putting the power back in the investors' hands. Users can now plan for their future by choosing the types of investments they'd like to purchase. While there is risk in doing so, most people find learning and navigating the investment world empowering.

Robinhood, Stash, and Acorns are mobile investment platforms with unique features. Each of them offers taxable accounts and the option to invest in ETFs from Apple or Android devices. How are they different and what makes them stand apart from one another? Keep reading as we pit them head to head to head.

Effortless Investing

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Winner: Acorns
Acorns automates your savings and investing tasks by rounding up each purchase you make to the nearest dollar. It brings back the nostalgia of a piggy bank.

Instead of putting your coins into a container on your dresser each night, Acorns takes the "change" from the purchases you made with your credit or debit card and invests it for you.

Once you set up your account and select your risk level, you won't have to do anything. Each time your balance reaches $5, it will be added to your investment account and invested for you.

Runner Up: Stash
Investing with Stash takes more work than Acorns. They offer suggestions on investing, but they won't make the investments for you. You'll fill out a brief questionnaire about your risk tolerance. From there, you'll have a number of stocks and funds to choose from.

Ultimately, you're in charge of investing and rebalancing as necessary. That's what makes Stash a little more difficult for early or inexperienced investors.

Can you actually make money on Stash?
Absolutely! But you can also lose money with Stash, just like any other investment. Your portfolio success depends on the market and how each of the investments you select are performing.

Honorable Mention: Robinhood
Robinhood is not meant for inexperienced investors. Investors on Robinhood choose their own stocks, funds, and options using the platform. But Robinhood doesn't offer its users any investment advice.

That means users need to be comfortable investing completely on their own. Robinhood has a much higher learning curve than Acorns and Stash. But the potential reward with successfully trading stocks can be much higher.

Earning Potential

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It's important to note that all investments involve a level of risk. No matter which investments you choose, your portfolio may drop in value depending on the performance of everything you're invested in.

Diversification is important. Investing in different fund categories with different levels of risk lessens the blow when a particular investment underperforms.

We rated Acorns, Stash, and Robinhood on earning potential based on the ability to choose specific investments. But that doesn't necessarily mean one will outperform another.

Winner: Robinhood
If you're confident in trading stocks, Robinhood can put you ahead. You won't get any specific advice on Robinhood, so you'll need to know what you're doing.

Robinhood lets you pick the exact investments you'd like to buy. Plus, they allow you to invest in gold and cryptocurrencies, which gives you a lot of choices. Being able to hand-select everything gives you a huge opportunity for growth, as long as you choose wisely.

Runner Up: Stash
Stash allows users to invest in a lot of different industries and stocks. The additional choices let you choose which investments you feel will perform better. But you can't invest in cryptocurrencies, gold, or options like you can with Robinhood.

Honorable Mention: Acorns
The growth of your Acorns investment account is really out of your hands. Sure, you can choose their more aggressive portfolio option and hope the market does well.

But whatever happens isn't up to anything you've built. Instead, you're relying on the Acorns investment managers to pick the best investments.

What's the different between Stash and Robinhood?
Stash charges fees for their service. Robinhood is completely free. But Robinhood involves a lot more investment knowledge because you'll have to build a portfolio basically from scratch. Stash has some fund options that make it a little easier.

Fees

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Winner: Robinhood
Robinhood is a completely free service. It doesn't charge its users anything for using the app. Plus, users don't pay any trading fees. You only have to pay the fees required by regulators.

Runner Up: Acorns
Acorns' fees start at $1 per month for their basic Invest account. If you're looking for a retirement account, you'll pay $2 per month for Acorns Invest and Acorns Later. For $3 per month, you can get Invest, Later, and Acorns Spend, which comes with a debit card.

Keep reading to learn more about the services Acorns offers.

Honorable Mention: Stash
Stash is comparable to Acorns in fees. Their basic account is $1 per month and includes debit card access.

But if you want a retirement account option, you'll have to pay $3 per month. That's higher than Acorns' retirement account option. Granted, you still get their debit card option, which makes it the same as Acorns. But you don't get the option to choose whether you'd like to forgo the debit card for a lower fee.

Stash also offers a higher tier account for $9 per month. You can have up to two investment accounts for children in this tier. Plus, you'll earn 2x the Stock-Back points. Keep reading to learn about this unique feature.

Customization

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Winner: Robinhood
Robinhood allows you to select your own individual stocks, funds, and options instead of building portfolios for you like Acorns does. You can even invest in gold and cryptocurrency. This lets users completely customize their investment mix and hand-pick the funds they'd like to have.

Does Robinhood affect your credit score?
No, Robinhood doesn't report anything to credit bureaus and they won't check your credit score if you sign up.

Runner Up: Stash
Stash gives users plenty of portfolio options and stocks to choose from. It's more than you get with Acorns, but not quite as much as you get with Robinhood. You can even select portfolios based on industry or cause.

For example, you can invest in their "Clean and Green" mix. That fund is comprised of clean energy sources like wind and solar. If that's a cause you support, you can support them using your investment dollars.

Honorable Mention: Acorns
Acorns doesn't offer much for customization. You can select one of five portfolios based on your risk tolerance. The portfolios range from conservative to aggressive, as is typical in the investment world.

Is investing with Acorns a good idea?
Acorns is a good idea for people looking at a passive way to save and invest money. It doesn't require much effort and you'll still take advantage of the stock market if it does well.

Best for Young or New Investors: Acorns

Acorns is the better than Robinhood and Stash for young or inexperienced investors. You'll only need $5 to start investing. It's also a nice option for those who want to house all of their finances under one roof, or in this case, within one app.

Acorns Invest
For $1 per month, you can sign up for Acorns Invest. It only takes a few minutes and you'll have access to their easy-to-navigate app. You won't have to keep a minimum balance or recurring deposit requirements. Acorns will also rebalance your portfolio automatically as things shift.

Acorns lets you make deposits, either one time or recurring, into your Acorns investment account. Or, you can link a debit or credit card to your account and Acorns will round up all your purchases to the nearest dollar. The spare change from each transaction is invested for you once the balance reaches $5.

It's a great model for people who have struggled to save in the past or find it difficult to set aside large chunks of money each month. With the round-up option, you won't even feel like you're missing out on any spending money throughout the month.

Acorns provides the perfect low-effort way to save and invest for your future. It's a "set it and forget it" way to keep you on track.

Acorns Later
Acorns Later is available for $2 per month and includes Invest. Acorns Later lets users invest in a retirement account. Acorns will recommend a type of retirement account based on a few questions that you answer. Here are the types of accounts that Acorns Later offers:

  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • SEP IRA

Each IRA offers a different tax advantage and fits with different retirement goals.

Acorns Spend
Acorns offers a checking account for $3 per month that includes Invest and Later. There are no minimum balance requirements when you use Acorns Spend. With the combination of retirement, investment, and checking accounts, Acorns can house almost your entire financial picture.

You'll receive a Visa debit card to use with your checking account. You won't be charged fees for:

  • Bank-to-bank transfers
  • ATM transactions
  • Overdrafts

Acorns Found Money
Found Money is a unique feature that is offered when you have an Acorns Invest account. Remember that the Invest account is included at all tiers, so this feature is available to all Acorns users.

Acorns partners with over 350 brands to earn you extra money in your investment account. All you have to do is link a credit or debit card to your Acorns account. Then, as you shop with brand partners, you'll earn a percentage that will automatically be deposited into your Acorns Invest account.

It's like a bonus way to earn cash back.

Should You Consider Acorns?
Acorns is great for new investors or those looking for a passive way to save money. It's easy to use and you don't have to put any effort into it once you set up your portfolio.

The biggest drawback of Acorns is the fees. While they are small in dollars, they can add up to be large percentages, especially if your account is small. After all, you're looking at spending between $12 and $36 per year. If your account is only $500 total, you're spending 2.4%-7.2% each year.

Acorns also doesn't feature a lot of options for investing. You're only given the option of 5 portfolios:

  • Conservative
  • Moderately conservative
  • Moderate
  • Moderately aggressive
  • Aggressive

With the lack of options and high fees, you might be able to find a better option for your investments than Acorns.

Is Robinhood good for beginners?
Robinhood isn't the best investment platform for beginners. You won't receive any investment advice and you'll be building your own portfolio. Unless you know what you're doing, it's best to stick with other investment apps, like Acorns.

Best for Learners: Stash

If you're looking to learn more about investments, Stash could be right for you. Stash provides suggestions for your investment portfolio. But the choice is up to you in the end. Stash also offers its users plenty of financial education resources for investors to learn as they go.

You can build your portfolio using many different investments with as little as $1. It's a nice option for investors who want a little more flexibility to choose their investments and want to learn more about the investment world without a ton of risk.

Stash Beginner
Stash's lowest tier account option is available to users for $1 per month. The Beginner tier allows you a taxable investment account and access to Stash's checking account.

Stash Growth
For $3 per month, Stash Growth grants you access to a retirement account with tax benefits. You'll also have access to a taxable investment account and Stash's checking account with a debit card.

While Acorns offers 3 options for retirement accounts, Stash only offers Traditional and Roth IRA accounts. Most people will get by with just those two options, as SEP IRAs are best for self-employed individuals or small business owners anyway.

Stash+
Stash's top-tier account offers everything the lower tiers have, plus you can have investment accounts for up to 2 children. You can open an UGMA or UTMA for minors. Once the children are old enough, they can use the money you've invested for education and other opportunities.

Stash+ accounts also come with a monthly market insights report. You'll see information about the economy, including specifics about different sectors and industries. Since Stash allows you the freedom to choose your investments, this information can prove very useful.

A Stash+ account also grants you twice as many Stock-Back rewards. Read on to learn about this unique feature.

Stock-Back Rewards
When you use your Stash debit card at any of the 11 million participating places, you can earn Stock-Back rewards. Instead of depositing a percentage of money into your investment account, you'll actually get a small share of stock from that business added to your investment portfolio.

For example, if you make a purchase at Starbucks, you will get an investment in Starbucks stock. It's a unique feature that lets you own part of the companies that you're already supporting.

How much money do you need to invest in Acorns?
You can start investing with Acorns using as little as $5. They believe "from acorns mighty oaks do grow," which is why they've built their platform to be accessible at small dollar amounts.

Stash Checking Account
Each account tier at Stash comes with access to a checking account and debit card. The only way to earn your Stock-Back rewards is to use your Stash debit card. With this online bank account, you won't pay fees for:

  • Monthly maintenance
  • Minimum balances
  • Overdrafts
  • ACH bank transfers
  • In-network ATM withdrawals at 19,000+ ATMS

If you do use an out-of-network ATM, you'll incur a fee of $2.50 per transaction. When you set up your direct deposit into your Stash checking account, you can get your paycheck two days sooner than at other banks.

Stash's Investment Choices
You can customize your investment portfolio to your liking with Stash using stocks and ETFs. Hand-select the stocks you'd like to purchase with as little as $1. If a stock price is above what you have available, you can buy fractions of shares. Stash separates stocks into categories that make it easy to shop, such as:

  • Health card
  • Finance
  • Media
  • Real estate

If you choose to invest in ETFs instead, you'll still have plenty of choices. You can shop by categories like:

  • Goods and services
  • Foundations
  • Retail
  • Technology and innovation

Stash even has a category for Missions and Causes, where you can support what you believe in. One of the ETFs you can choose is Combat Carbon, which only includes companies that are actively reducing their carbon footprint.

Should You Consider Stash?
Stash is a nice option for people wanting to learn the investment world without taking on too much risk. You can start with $1 and choose from plenty of investment options.

It's also a neat way to support causes that you care about instead of just investing in generic businesses that you don't know much about.

But the fees for using Stash can really add up. Just like with Acorns, if you have a smaller balance, the fees can eat up a large percentage of your portfolio each year. And Stash doesn't provide much for those fees. You'll be in charge of your investments, including rebalancing if you feel it's needed.

Stash's Stock-Back rewards are more unique than Acorns, but they're not as easy to earn. With Acorns, you can link any card you'd like to use. But Stash makes you use their debit card. It may be best to stick with the high rewards you can earn from your normal cards.

Is Stash or Acorns better?
Stash and Acorns offer different ways to invest. If you're looking for a passive investment option, Acorns is probably better for you. But if you'd like to be more selective as to what investments your money buys, Stash is what you want.

The fees for each are comparable, but always make sure you're getting what you need out of the app and not paying for extras you won't use.

Best for Active Traders: Robinhood

Robinhood is a great investment app for active traders. You won't have to select an account tier to fit your needs because Robinhood is 100% free to use, aside from the required regulatory costs. Plus, there are no minimum account balance requirements. You'll just need money in your account to purchase investments.

Commission-Free Trading
You can make unlimited commission-free trades on:

  • Stocks
  • Funds
  • Options

Buying and selling cryptocurrencies is also commission-free. But investing in cryptocurrencies involves a lot of risk. It's not recommended for beginning investors with little market experience.

Is Robinhood safe?
Robinhood uses two-factor authentication. It's safer because it requires two sources of identification, such as a password plus something you have, like your phone.

You can disable this feature, but it's recommended you keep Robinhood's added layer of security.

Customize Your Portfolio
Robinhood offers a lot of customization when you're setting up your portfolio. They won't offer you any investment advice. Instead, you're in charge of choosing the investments that you feel are right for you.

You can purchase fractional shares for as little as $1 and invest any amount you'd like. Your portfolio is balanced based on the investments you choose, and it's up to you to adjust it as needed.

In addition to stocks, funds, and options, you can invest in gold and cryptocurrency. Whether you'd like to add a tangible investment, like gold, or something completely digital, like cryptocurrency, Robinhood gives you the freedom to do so.

Cash Management
Robinhood is introducing their own Mastercard debit card offering, though it's only a waitlist option without a live date yet. Your uninvested cash will earn an impressive variable APY of 1.80%.

When it goes live, the account will allow you access to your uninvested cash through your brokerage account. You can spend the money using the provided Mastercard debit card. Or, you can withdraw cash as needed from one of the 75,000 ATMs in their fee-free network.

Should You Consider Robinhood?
The best feature of Robinhood is the price: free. You won't pay to use the app and you get access to commission-free trading.

It's a great option for active traders looking for a way to avoid being charged commission each time they make a trade.

Robinhood also offers customization and added variety with choices like gold and crypto investing.

But you won't get any real service from Robinhood's platform — you'll have to know what you need to invest in. They won't make investment suggestions for you, nor will Robinhood balance your portfolio automatically.

New investors or those without much investing knowledge would be better off using Stash or Acorns.

Bottom Line

If you're looking for a way to invest right from your mobile device, Robinhood, Acorns, and Stash all have something to offer. While they all offer investment accounts, the features and service you get with each of them varies.

Take your time to weigh the options based on what will fit your lifestyle the best.

Note: This website is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content. You do not have to use our links, but you help support CreditDonkey if you do.

More from CreditDonkey:


Stash Invest Review


Acorns Review


Robinhood Review



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