August 19, 2022

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Acorns Vs. Stash: Which One Is Right For You?

Acorns and Stash are two of the most popular finance apps around, and they both offer a way for customers to save and invest their money quickly and easily. But which app is right for you? The answer depends on the features you need, the kind of investments you want to make, how much you’re willing to pay and other elements offered by each app.

Here’s how Acorns and Stash compare on some of the most important factors to investors.

Investment plans: Acorns vs. Stash

Acorns and Stash both offer multiple investment plans, with Acorns providing two tiers of service and Stash three levels. Here’s how their plans break down and what they cost.

Acorns offers the following service plans:

  • Personal – This level gets you an individual investing account, an IRA (whether traditional, Roth or SEP) and a cash management account. It costs $3 per month.
  • Family – This level includes the features of the entry level plus the ability to open as many custodial accounts for children as needed. This tier costs $5 per month.

With Acorns’ investing account, you’ll have the ability to invest in pre-selected portfolios that contain exchange-traded funds (ETFs). You’ll also be able to set up recurring investments and enjoy “round-ups,” where you invest your extra change from everyday purchases.

Stash offers the following service plans:

  • Stash Beginner – This entry tier gets you an individual investing account that allows you to buy stocks and ETFs, a cash management account, $1,000 in life insurance and the “Stock Back” debit card. This account costs $1 per month.
  • Stash Growth – The middle tier gets you the benefits of the entry tier plus a Smart Portfolio, a managed portfolio and a retirement account (traditional IRA or Roth IRA). This account costs $3 per month.
  • Stash+ – The highest level gets you the benefits of the two lower levels as well as custodial accounts, double bonuses on the Stock Back debit card, premium investment advice and $10,000 in life insurance. This account costs $9 per month.

With Stash’s investing account, you can choose from a large selection of ETFs and individual stocks starting from the entry tier. That means you’ll need to know what you want to buy. Only at the second tier of service will you get access to Smart Portfolio, which manages your investments.

Advantage: Stash may have it by a nose, but if there’s a specific feature you need, it could sway you to one investing app or the other, because they don’t offer all the same features here.

Stash allows do-it-yourselfers to get in the game for as little as $1 per month, and you’ll get to choose the investments you want to make, too. That may not be beneficial for those who want some professional guidance, however, and on that basis, both Acorns and Stash charge $3 for the ability to have a managed portfolio with other similar features. That said, Stash does offer more flexibility in what you can purchase. On the other hand, Acorns gets you a custodial account at a lower price point as well as the potential for a SEP IRA, if you need that.

Investment choices and costs: Acorns vs. Stash

It’s here that Stash provides a lot more options for investors looking to get exactly what they want in their portfolio.

In its core portfolio option, Acorns offers five preselected portfolios ranging in riskiness from conservative to aggressive. Acorns also offers four sustainable portfolios, which incorporate ESG funds, giving you more concentrated access to companies that meet those criteria.

Among these two types of portfolios, you’ll have access to 22 ETFs, and they’re low-cost funds, too. The funds’ expense ratios range from 0.03 to 0.25 percent, or an annual cost of $3 to $25 for every $10,000 invested. If you invest in the more aggressive (i.e., stock-heavy) portfolios, your overall portfolio will cost close to the lower end of that range.

Plus, Acorns allows users to allocate up to 5 percent of their taxable portfolio to a fund invested in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. The expense ratio on the fund is a steep 0.95 percent, however.

Stash lets you do the best of both worlds: You can buy ETFs and individual stocks yourself and you can use the company’s Smart Portfolios to manage your portfolio on your behalf.

If you’re interested in doing it yourself, Stash gives you access to more than 3,800 individual stocks, while you’ll have access to more than 90 ETFs. That’s a wide selection of stocks and funds, giving you a lot of freedom to choose, but you’ll need to know what you want to buy. Stash does an excellent job of showing you the expense ratio of each fund, so you’ll understand the costs at a single glance instead of having to click in and out of various pages.

If you want Stash to manage your portfolio, you’ll have access to one of three managed portfolios, ranging from conservative to aggressive. The conservative portfolio will have more bond exposure, while the aggressive portfolio will have a higher weighting of stocks. The funds available in the managed portfolio are low-cost choices as well.

Stash also uses Bitcoin in its managed portfolios, replacing a small part of the bond allocation. These portfolios have between 4 and 6 percent allocations to Bitcoin.

Advantage: Stash gives you more choices, and if that’s what you’re looking for, then Stash may be the better fit for you. On the other hand, if what you really need is a managed portfolio, then either Stash or Acorns could work well for you. If you’re looking for a managed portfolio that’s invested in sustainable investments, then Acorns is your pick over Stash.

Cash management accounts: Acorns vs. Stash

Both Acorns and Stash offer cash management accounts that can do a lot.

Acorns’ cash management account offers the following features:

  • Direct deposit, up to 2 days early
  • Mobile check deposit and check-writing
  • “Round-ups” to invest your spare change
  • 55,000 fee-free ATMs in the U.S. and globally
  • Automatically deposit money into investment accounts
  • FDIC insured up to $250,000

You’ll get all these features from the entry-level account.

Stash’s cash management account offers the following features:

  • No overdraft or account maintenance fees
  • 19,000 fee-free ATMs across the U.S.
  • Instant deposit at retailers
  • Instant transfers between Stash accounts
  • “Stock Back” card for spending rewards in stock
  • Direct deposit, up to 2 days early
  • Mobile check deposit and check-writing
  • Recurring transfers
  • FDIC insured up to $250,000

So both Acorns and Stash compete favorably on some of the most important features of cash management accounts, and each offers a robust account with many features.

Advantage: Too close to call. Acorns may be better if you need more fee-free ATM access, though Stash may be better if you like its “Stock Back” card, though you might be better off with a traditional rewards card and investing the cash rewards yourself.

Other features: Acorns vs. Stash

What about all the other features that come with each service? Well, it’s tough to judge them head-to-head when one may not offer a specific feature that another does. But let’s lay out some of the other features on offer at Acorns and Stash.

Acorns offers the following features to all users:

  • Basic planning tools
  • Automatically rebalanced investments
  • Round-ups on purchases, adding micro-investments

Stash offers the following features:

  • Strong investing and business educational content
  • Stock Back card with stock rewards (double rewards at the highest tier)
  • Automatic rebalancing on managed portfolios
  • Round-ups on purchases, adding micro-investments

Advantage: Stash and Acorns are pretty close here. But if you’re looking for more investing content, then Stash may be your pick. If you’re setting up a managed portfolio and don’t especially want to follow along, then this feature may be moot for you. (Here’s how micro-investing works.)

Account types: Acorns vs. Stash

Compared to traditional brokerage accounts, the number of account types at either Acorns or Stash is much more limited, though they’ll likely be enough for most investors.

At its basic tier, Acorns offers individual taxable investing accounts and retirement accounts, including a traditional IRA, a Roth IRA, a SEP IRA and a rollover IRA. You’ll also get the cash management account as part of the basic package. If you want to step up to the next tier, you’ll get access to a custodial account, which can help your child get into investing.

At its entry tier, Stash offers access to an individual taxable investing account as well as the cash management account. The next tier gets you access to a managed portfolio and the addition of retirement accounts, including a traditional IRA and Roth IRA. If you opt for Stash’s highest tier, then you’ll receive access to custodial accounts for minors.

Advantage: With a higher level of features at lower price points, Acorns wins here.

Transfer fees: Acorns vs. Stash

Transfer fees are the kind of thing that you don’t pay much attention to until they really bite you. Few companies charge fees to move your investments into an account, but most charge you if you want to take your investments with you. And if you’re sitting on some big gains, it could make sense to cough up the fees rather than liquidate the holdings and transfer them as cash.

And there’s a clear winner on fees to transfer out your positions. Acorns charges $50 per ETF to move your account to another broker. On the other hand, Stash charges $75 per account, which is basically in line with what most companies charge. That’s a steep difference, even if you have only a few ETFs. Of course, if you plan to stick with Acorns, then the fee won’t matter.

Advantage: Stash.

Bottom line

Whether Stash or Acorns is better depends a lot on your personal needs and expectations. Both offer many similar features on a monthly subscription. If you’re looking for a basic portfolio with some key features, including retirement accounts, at low cost, then Acorns might be a better pick. But if you’re looking for more investing features, including access to research and life insurance, and don’t mind paying a higher cost, then Stash may be the better fit for you.

https://www.bankrate.com/investing/acorns-vs-stash/