When it comes to investing online or on your phone, Stash, Acorns and Robinhood are three names at the top of the industry. Each was designed to simplify investing for retail investors, offering straightforward apps that are easy to use and understand. While there are larger players in the brokerage space, these companies are certainly some of the most dynamic. All three offer many ways to invest your money, but it’s important to note the differences, especially the fact that only two of the three allow you to invest in individual stocks. The differences don’t stop there, and you should know what you’re getting into before you sign up with any of them. For additional questions about investing, consider working with a financial advisor.
Stash vs. Acorns vs. Robinhood: Overview
All three of these online brokerage platforms are fairly new to the market, at least when compared with longstanding institutions like Vanguard, Fidelity or Charles Schwab. If you have a mobile device, such as an iPhone or Android, it’s easy to open up an account with any of these companies. However, each offers different services and it pays to know how they stack up.
Robinhood is one of the better known online investment platforms out there. It’s free to open an account with Robinhood, and you can make trades as you like. Robinhood doesn’t charge trading commissions, which is a trend that has taken over the industry. You can use the platform to invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), options and even cryptocurrencies.
Acorns takes a different approach that doesn’t allow users to invest in individual stocks. Instead, it functions more as an accumulation account that invests for you. There are two tiers of Acorns accounts:
- Acorns personal: This package includes a trio of accounts: a basic taxable investing account, a SEP, Roth or traditional IRA and a checking account.
- Acorns family: This includes all of the above, in addition to an Acorns Early account, which is an investment account for your kids.
This brokerage can provide an all-in-one service at a relatively low cost. But the fact that you can’t invest in individual stocks may be a deal breaker for many. However, you can set up recurring deposits, roundups from card purchases and you can even earn more by shopping with certain Acorns partners.
Stash can be looked at as a combination of both Robinhood and Acorns. In short, it features the package-based approach of Acorns, while affording a wider range of investments like Robinhood. Stash also supports many different account types, including taxable brokerage accounts, retirement accounts and a banking account that comes with a debit card.
A Stash brokerage account will let you invest in ETFs and individual stocks as you please, much like any other brokerage, albeit with fewer offerings. Stash also has the added benefit of giving you investment recommendations based upon your goals and financial situation. Stash also has different levels of investment plans:
- Growth: This offers low-cost investment options through a personal investing account and comes with banking and insurance access. It also gives users tax benefits with retirement investing and a “smart portfolio.”
- Stash+: This includes all of the above plus investing accounts for two kids, in addition to investing market insights and banking and insurance access.
Stash vs. Acorns vs. Robinhood: Fees
As is the case with most brokerage accounts these days, fees are relatively low across Stash, Acorns and Robinhood. Here is a summary of some key pricing terms of all three platforms.
Stash has two tiers of monthly fees. For $3 per month (Stash Growth), you’ll get a taxable investment account, a checking account with a debit card that gives you stock when you make purchases, investment advice, access to life insurance, access to an IRA and advice on retirement savings. The highest tier, which is Stash+ at $9 per month, adds two custodial accounts for children and more individualized investment advice. You can trade individual stocks and ETFs with Stash, and you won’t be on the hook for any trading fees or commissions. Check the firm’s website for details.
For $1 per month you can sign up for Acorns Lite, which offers the platform’s basic investment services. At $3 per month you can enroll in Acorns Personal, which gives you a checking account, checking and tax-advantaged retirement accounts. At $5 per month you can enroll in Acorns Personal Plus, which adds investment accounts for dependents and educational resources. (For any account that has more than $1 million in it, these fees increase to $100 per month.) While a niche part of its service, Acorns also charges a very high fee to transfer securities out of its platform at $50 per asset.
Robinhood is the only platform that allows users to open an account and trade completely fee-free. Also, there are no inactivity fees, no fees for moving money in or out of your account and very few non-trading fees. Instead, Robinhood makes money by pocketing the small difference between the buying and selling price of an asset. This generates very little money, typically only pennies or less per share traded, but over millions of transactions those pennies add up. Robinhood Gold also offers margin trading to subscribers who pay a $5 monthly fee, which allows margin trading at 7.5% interest rate and – as of April 2023 – 4.4% APY on idle cash. Gold customers also get investment information, such as analysis, earnings reports and other financial news.
Stash vs. Acorns vs. Robinhood: Services and Features
When it comes to their services and features, Stash, Acorns and Robinhood are all slightly different, with Stash offering the most comprehensive package of both savings and investment accounts. However, depending on what you’re looking to accomplish, it may be best to consider more than just one platform.
Of these three online brokerages, Robinhood is far and away the best when it comes to straightforward trading. With a free Robinhood account, you’ll be able to trade stocks, ETFs, options and cryptocurrencies. You can’t trade anything individual with an Acorns account, and even Stash’s trading capabilities are pretty limited. Despite Robinhood’s dynamic trading platform, it doesn’t go very far beyond investing. In other words, you won’t be able to open IRAs, savings accounts or checking accounts with Robinhood.
Acorns, on the other hand, doesn’t allow you to trade individual stocks or any other specific investments. Instead, it does the investing work for you and functions more like an accumulation account, encouraging users to save with features such as debit and credit roundups that divert directly into savings. Acorns, like Stash, but unlike Robinhood, provides multiple levels of service. The Acorns Personal plan adds retirement functionality through an IRA, and the Acorns Family plan includes the ability to get custodial accounts for your kids. In fact, Stash’s account tiers are roughly the same, though the highest tier is $9 per month and Stash provides users with specific investment advice.
Acorns and Stash are remarkably similar platforms, in that they make investing and savings easy and accessible for low monthly fees. They each provide access to checking accounts, debit cards, retirement accounts, custodial accounts and individual investment accounts. They each make it simple to earn more as well. Stash’s debit card has a stock back feature that functions much like a cash back card. Then with Acorns, you can earn more by shopping with partner brands.
The main difference between Acorns and Stash is that you can invest in individual stocks and ETFs with Stash. However, the trading functionality is greatly diminished when compared to the capabilities of Robinhood. You’ll only be able to execute trades at certain times of day, so it’s much more difficult to precisely time the market or take advantage of short-term fluctuations in stock price. You’ll also have access to a more limited number of investments, though Stash does claim to place an emphasis on socially conscious investing. However, it’s a step above Acorns, as you won’t be able to manage your portfolio much with Acorns.
Stash vs. Acorns vs. Robinhood: Online and Mobile
Unlike many of the bigger players in the brokerage space that have robust mobile apps and desktop interfaces, Stash, Acorns and Robinhood are all mobile app-centric brokerage platforms. You can download each brokerage’s app on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. In turn, each is designed as a mobile experience, so that’s where you’ll see the most functionality, even if you can access certain features by logging in from your desktop or laptop.
The Robinhood app is fairly well rated, though it likely took a hit during its time in headlines earlier in 2021. As of the time of this writing, Robinhood has a rating of 3.8 stars out of 5 on the Google Play Store. Its Apple App Store rating is a little better, at 4.1 stars out of 5 from across millions of reviews.
You can access certain Acorns features by logging in on your desktop computer, but the platform is designed to be used on a mobile device. Its mobile app has solid ratings as well. As of the time of this writing, on the Google Play Store, the Acorns app has a 4.3 out of 5 star rating from over 150,000 reviews. The Apple App Store gives it an even higher rating of 4.7 stars out of 5. The Apple version has about 800,000 reviews.
Stash is available as both a mobile app or mostly on your desktop, again giving it the best overall functionality out of the three firms. Stash’s app is similarly highly rated on the Google Play Store at 4.2 stars out of 5 across 75,000 reviews. On the Apple App Store, Stash’s app has a rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars and about 250,000 reviews.
Overall, each of these brokerage platforms offer a solid online and mobile experience, largely because they were born out of a demand for easy to use, online brokerage platforms that anyone can have access to and use.
Who Should Use Stash, Acorns and Robinhood?
If you’re looking for a simple way to invest in a wide variety of different stocks, ETFs and even cryptocurrencies, Robinhood is for you. While you won’t have access to savings accounts, checking accounts and other wealth management tools like you would with Stash or Acorns, Robinhood is far and away the best when it comes to pure investing. You can trade as you like, with very few restrictions when compared to Stash or Acorns.
Acorns, on the flip side, is best for those who don’t want to deal with investing. If you want to simultaneously focus on saving up and investing for retirement, Acorns makes things really simple. With its multiple tiers of investment and savings offerings, you can save to invest, invest for retirement or even invest for your kids with custodial accounts. Just make sure you’re okay with not picking your own investments, as you won’t have the option to do so with Acorns.
Those looking for a mix of both savings and self-directed investing should strongly consider using Stash. Stash is essentially a mix of Robinhood and Acorns, though you won’t have quite as much functionality as either one individually. Stash gives users investment advice, but it’s not as easy to automate your savings. You can still invest in individual stocks and ETFs, but not as many as you can with Robinhood. Trades also only process at set times, so you don’t have as much flexibility, which is something to be wary of. However, Stash is the most wide-ranging platform of the three.
Stash, Acorns and Robinhood each serve a slightly different purpose. Whether you should use one or the other fully depends on what you’re looking to get out of your brokerage platform. However, the one thing they have in common is the fact that they’re pretty new and fresh to the market. So if you’re looking for a sleek, modern platform that can help you save and invest your money and you don’t want to work with an older institution like Fidelity or Vanguard, any of these could be good options for you. Robinhood offers the most when it comes to investing, and Acorns is a great option for set-it-and-forget-it savers. Stash combines the upsides of both with only a little less functionality. All three are solid online brokerage options, though, depending on your needs.
Tips for Investing
- Investing your hard-earned money isn’t always the easiest task. When things get complicated, it could pay to have a dedicated financial advisor in your corner helping you make sense of everything. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- If you decide to go at your investments yourself by using apps like Stash, Acorns or Robinhood, it’s a good idea to be prepared. SmartAsset has you covered with free online investment resources. Check out our free investment calculator today.
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