Updated June 15, 2020

Stash vs Acorns vs Robinhood

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Should you choose Stash, Acorns or Robinhood? They're not all the same. Learn if you can actually make money with investing apps.

© CreditDonkey

Investing is the best way to grow your money and retire stress-free. But who has a thousand bucks lying around to start?

That's why many beginners use Stash, Acorns or Robinhood.

These micro-investing apps allow anyone to start, even if you just have a few dollars. Each one works a little differently.

Acorns automatically invests your spare change, while Stash guides you through the process of building a portfolio. Robinhood lets you trade completely commission free.

Are they worth the hype? Read on to see how they compare and which one is best for you.

Who Is Each App Best For?

Each app is targeted towards a different type of investor.

  • Acorns is best for hands-off investors. Acorns automatically chooses your investments and manages your portfolio for you. It's best for "set it and forget it" long term investing.

  • Stash is best for beginners who want to learn. Stash guides you through the steps and helps you choose investments suited for your goals. You manage your own portfolio but still have some hand-holding.

  • Robinhood is best for experienced active traders. Robinhood is completely DIY investing. There's no guidance at all, so you manage everything yourself.

Now let's go into more detail about each one.

About Acorns

    Acorns
    Read ReviewVisit Site

    Acorns

    Pros:
    • No minimum investment
    • Invest with spare change
    • Cash-back program
    Cons:
    • Fees are high for small balances
    • No tax benefits
    • Limited investment options

    Our Review: (3.7) Acorns automatically invests your spare change. But can it help make you money? Find out if this app is safe and legit... Read full review

    $10 Sign-Up Bonus

Founded in 2012, Acorns is one of the original "spare change" robo advisors. After linking your credit and debit cards, your purchases will be rounded up to the nearest dollar and the change invested. You can also set custom rules and recurring deposits.

Acorns chooses your investments for you based on how aggressively you want to invest. It takes care of all portfolio management, including rebalancing.

Acorns now also offers retirement accounts and a checking account with debit card (for extra monthly fees).

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.

About Stash

    Stash
    Read ReviewVisit Site

    Stash

    Pros:
    • $1 to invest
    • Guidance to beginners
    • Automatically invest extra funds
    Cons:
    • Fees are high for small balances
    • High ETF expense ratio
    • Limited research

    Our Review: (3.8) Can Stash help make you money? Find out if the investing app is legit and how it compares to apps like Acorns and Robinhood... Read full review

    Sign Up and Get $5

Stash was founded in 2015 and takes a different approach. After you answer some questions about your goals, risk tolerance, and interests, the app will give you investment recommendations. It will help you build a personalized, diversified portfolio.

Stash is not a robo advisor. It merely provides guidance and does not manage your portfolio for you.

Stash also offers IRAs, custodial accounts, and a banking account with debit card.

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.

About Robinhood

    Robinhood
    Read ReviewVisit Site

    Robinhood

    Pros:
    • Commission-free trades
    • No minimum
    • Extended trading hours
    Cons:
    • No IRAs
    • Limited research
    • No mutual funds & bonds

    Our Review: (4.0) Robinhood lets you trade stocks commission-free and has no account minimums. Is it safe? Are there hidden fees? Read on for the pros and cons... Read full review

    Get a Free Stock from $2.50 to $200

When Robinhood was founded in 2013, it made huge waves by offering completely 100% commission-free trades. This allowed anyone to invest without losing money to trading fees.

Currently, the app supports trading in stocks, ETFs, options, and cryptocurrencies.

Robinhood is a self-directed trading app. You make your own investment decisions and manage your own portfolio.

Robinhood also has a cash management account in the works. This account will pay an APY on your cash balance and comes with a debit card.

How They Are Similar and Different

All three are micro-investing apps, meaning you can invest with small amounts of money.

The main difference is that Robinhood provides no investment guidance at all, while Stash helps you build a portfolio. And Acorns makes all the choices for you.

 AcornsStashRobinhood
 

Acorns

Stash

Robinhood

SPECIAL OFFER
$10 Sign-Up Bonus - Learn More

SPECIAL OFFER
Sign Up and Get $5 - Learn More

SPECIAL OFFER
Get a Free Stock from $2.50 to $200 - Learn More

 

Benefits and Features

Annual Fee$1/mo for Acorns; $2/mo for Acorns + Acorns Later; $3/mo for Acorns + Acorns Later + Acorns SpendSTASH Beginner ($1/mo)
STASH Growth ($3/mo)
STASH+ ($9/mo)
All trades are commission-free. No platform fees.
Minimum Deposit
$0
$0
$0
Fractional Shares
Yes
Yes
Coming Soon
Taxable Accounts
Yes
Yes
Yes
IRA Accounts
Yes
Yes
No
Phone Support
Yes
Yes - normal business hours, plus Sat & Sun 11a-5p ET
No
Banking$3/mo for Acorns + Acorns Later + Acorns Spend checking. Free debit card, no minimum balance, no overdraft fees, and unlimited free or fee-reimbursed ATMs nationwide.All users get a cash account with a debit card. No minimum balance, no overdraft fees, and free ATM access at 19,000+ ATMS.
Coming soon

Here are some other key similarities and differences.

  • None have a minimum requirement (Stash is just $1 to start).

  • Acorns and Stash both cost $1 per month for the basic accounts. Robinhood is free.

  • Acorns and Stash support fractional shares, which lets you buy a tiny piece of a share of a stock. This feature is coming to Robinhood soon.

  • Stash and Robinhood allow you to choose your own stocks and ETFs. You don't get a say with Acorns.

  • Robinhood also allows you to trade in options and cryptocurrencies. The other two don't.

  • Acorns and Stash offer retirement IRA accounts for extra monthly fees. Robinhood only offers a taxable account.

  • Acorns and Stash have a round-up feature to help you save automatically. Robinhood does not.

What's the difference between Stash and Robinhood?
Stash starts from $1 per month for their service. Robinhood is completely free. But Robinhood requires more investment knowledge because you're responsible for building your own portfolio. Stash guides you to choose investments to make it a little easier for beginners.

Fees

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Here's how the fees compare:

  • Acorns starts at $1 per month
    The basic Acorns Invest account is $1/month for all balances. A retirement Acorns Later account is $2/month. For $3 per month, you can get Invest, Later, and the Acorns Spend checking account, which comes with a debit card.

  • Stash starts at $1 per month
    The Stash Beginner account costs $1/month and includes the Stash banking account. Stash Growth costs $3/month and includes retirement accounts. Stash+ costs $9/month and includes 2 custodial accounts for your kids.

  • Robinhood is completely free
    Robinhood charges no monthly account fees and no trading fees.

Here's one thing to keep in mind. For Acorns and Stash, $1 every month (or $12 per year) might seem low but it's high if you have a small balance. If you only have $10 in the account, $1 is 10%. But beginner investors may find the guidance worth it.

However, for high balances, $1 a month is pretty cheap. Robo-advisors like Betterment charges 0.25% of assets under management. So if you have $1,000, that's $2.5 per month.

Earning Potential and Risk

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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 market conditions.

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

  • Since Robinhood is completely DIY, you can choose your own investments. This gives you the biggest potential for growth (but also the most risk if you don't choose wisely).

  • Stash curates investment choices for you based on your risk tolerance. This gives you control over your choices but also limits your risk.

  • Acorns does all the investment for you, so the performance of your portfolio is out of your hands. You can choose your level of risk from conservative to aggressive. Your investments are automatically diversified across 7,000+ stocks and bonds.

Customization

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  • Robinhood offers the most customization
    Robinhood allows you to select your own individual stocks, funds, and options. You can even invest in gold and cryptocurrency. This lets users completely hand-pick their investment mix.

    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.

  • Stash has a mix of custom and ready-made
    Stash lets you choose your own individual stocks or you can invest in their curated themed portfolios. You can select portfolios based on industry or causes you support.

    For example, you can invest in their "Clean and Green" mix. That fund is comprised of clean energy sources like wind and solar.

  • Acorns chooses everything for you
    You can only select one of five pre-built portfolios based on your risk tolerance, ranging from conservative to aggressive.

Customer Service

Both Acorns and Stash offer customer support via email and phone to their users. Stash also has a form on its website where you can ask questions before signing up.

Robinhood only offers email support through the app once you're a user. There's no way to contact Robinhood if you're not a customer.

Here are the customers service numbers to know:

  • Acorns: (855) 739-2859, support@acorns.com
  • Stash: (800) 205-5164, support@stashinvest.com

Security

Acorns, Stash, and Robinhood all use industry standard 256-bit encryption to protect your personal and financial data. You can trust that your data is safe with them.

All three are members of the SIPC (Securities Investor Protection Corporation). The SIPC protects your securities up to $500,000 per account type if the platform goes out of business.

But the SIPC will NOT protect you from losing money through investing. Any cryptocurrency investments through Robinhood are also not protected by SIPC.

Best for Young or New Investors: Acorns

Acorns is the best choice for young or inexperienced investors, since the robo-advisor will manage everything for you. Round-up rules make it easy to "invest without thinking," so it's also good for young investors who have trouble saving.

There is no minimum to get started, and as soon as your round-ups reach $5, Acorns will automatically invest for you.

Some unique features include:

  • Custom rules: You can adjust your round-up rules, such as applying multipliers and only rounding up specific purchases.

  • Found Money: Earn extra money when you shop with Acorns' 350+ partners. Link a credit or debit card to your Acorns account. Then, as you shop with brand partners, you'll earn a bonus that will be automatically invested.

  • Acorns checking: For $3 a month, you can also get the Acorns checking account with a debit card. There is no minimum balance, no overdraft fees, and unlimited free or fee-reimbursed ATMs nationwide.

Read more in the full Acorns review.

With the combination of retirement, investment, and checking accounts, Acorns can house almost your entire financial picture. So it's also a good option for young adults who want to manage all their finances within one app.

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.

How much money do you need to invest in Acorns?
Acorns has no minimum requirement. You can start investing with Acorns as soon as your balance reaches $5. They believe "from acorns mighty oaks do grow," which is why they've built their platform to be accessible at small dollar amounts.

Best for Learners: Stash

Stash is a good option if you're looking to learn more about investments. Stash provides suggestions for your investment portfolio. But the choice is up to you in the end. Stash also offers plenty of educational resources for new investors.

Unique features include:

  • Stock-Back Rewards: When you use your Stash debit card at any of the 11 million participating places, you get a small share of stock from that business added to your investment portfolio.

  • Socially responsible investing: Stash categorizes stocks into themes, so it's easy for you to choose what you're interested in. This includes socially responsible investing.

    For example, Stash 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.

  • Auto-Stash: These features allow you to automate your investments. You can set up round-up rules or a set schedule to transfer funds. Stash can even analyze your spending and earning patterns and set aside cash for you.

  • Cash management account: All users get a cash account with a debit card. There is no minimum balance and no overdraft fees. You get free ATM access at 19,000+ ATMS.

Read more in the full Stash Invest review.

Should You Consider Stash?
Stash is a nice option for people wanting to learn the investment world without taking on too much risk. With just $1 per month, you can choose from plenty of investment options and get unlimited trading.

It's also a neat way to support causes that you care about.

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 some say on 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.

Hear from an Expert

CreditDonkey asked Professor Thomas Chemmanur from Boston College for his expert opinion on the pros and cons of robo-advisors.

Here's what he had to say:

Best for Active Traders: Robinhood

Robinhood is a great investment app for active traders. It 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.

Unique features include:

  • Extended trading hours: You can trade 30 minutes before the market opens and 2 hours after it closes - from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.

  • Day trading: Perform up to 3 day trades in a five trading day period. Those with $25,000+ account balance have no limitations.

  • Research and tools: This a limited, but you can get real-time market updates, candlestick charts and indicators for stocks and cryptocurrencies.

Read more in the full Robinhood review.

Should You Consider Robinhood?
The best feature of Robinhood is the price: free. You won't pay to use the app and there are no trading fees. It's a great option for active traders looking for a way to save on trade fees.

Robinhood also offers customization and added variety with choices like options, gold, and crypto investing. It's best for more experienced investors.

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.

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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