Acorns vs. Stash: How the investing apps compare

By Rickie Houston, CEPF

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Acorns and Stash are two micro- investing apps that offer ways to save and invest small portions of money. Both apps offering various personal investment, retirement, and online banking accounts.

They both utilize a monthly fee structure, but while Acorns is completed automated, Stash gives you more control over your investments.

Acorns and Stash also have different investment choices and account features. Keep reading to see which platform is best for you. 

Acorns is an automated investing app offering personal investment accounts, IRAs, checking accounts , and investment accounts for kids. While the investment platform has a $0 account minimum, you'll need at least $5 to start investing. 

As for fees, Acorns offers three plans at various price points: Acorns Lite, Acorns Personal, and Acorns Family. If you're solely interested in investing with a personal investment account, Acorns Lite might be best for you. The account has a $1 monthly fee, but it: (a) invests your money in an ETF portfolio tailored toward your risk tolerance, and (b) uses Acorn Round-Ups to invest spare change from your purchases.

You can also take advantage of the personal investment account with Acorns Personal, but you'll get access to so much more with this plan ($3 monthly fee). This includes an Acorns Later IRA account and a checking account that gives you the choice of transactions at more than 55,000 fee-free ATMs. 

The Acorns Family account could be a great choice if you're looking to merge personal investment, retirement, and family savings goals. The $5 monthly fee grants you the following: a personal investment account, Acorns Later IRA, Acorns Spend checking account, and an Acorns Early investment account for kids.

If you're interested in investing and checking account access, you'll need to sign up for Acorns Personal or Acorns Family. The Acorns Spend checking account includes all-digital banking, debit card access, direct deposit, mobile check deposit, FDIC insurance, and more.

But there's another account perk: Acorns Earn. This feature gives you investment bonuses and rewards when you shop at any of the companies Acorns has partnered with. Acorns has partnered with more than 350 brands, including Walmart, Apple, Expedia, and Nike.

Acorns' mobile app is available on both iOS and Android devices.  

Stash is also a micro-investing app that offers a wide range of automatic investing tools. Like Acorns, Stash has a $0 account minimum and offers three pricing plans. Stash's three are Stash Beginner, Stash Growth, and Stash+. 

Similar to Acorns' Lite account, Stash Beginner carries a $1 monthly fee. This plan includes a personal brokerage account, Stock-Back card (this is a Stash debit card that qualifies you for stock rewards when you use it for purchases), online banking, saving tools, personalized advice, and Avibra-sponsored $1,000 life insurance. 

For $2 more per month, Stash Growth offers every feature in Stash Beginner plus Smart Portfolio automated investment management, IRAs, and personalized retirement advice. For $9 per month, you can utilize an array of features and account options in Stash+. Stash+ offers everything in Stash Growth, but it also includes investment accounts for children, Stock-Back card bonuses, investment research and advice, and more. 

When it comes to investment choices, Stash offers stocks and ETFs in more than 3,700 companies. The investment app also lets you purchase fractional shares. But if you're more of a beginner, there are still options for you.

Stash's Smart Portfolio feature is only available for the Stash Growth and Stash+ plans, but this tool uses your specific risk level to create a personalized portfolio of ETFs. The investment app will also rebalance your portfolio if it moves 5% away from the target allocation, according to Stash.

Two other features to look out for with Stash are Set Schedule and Round-Ups. These two tools are a part of the Auto-Stash suite. Set Schedule allows you to set up automatic money transfers for your account. With Round-ups, you can use your linked debit card to have Stash round up your purchases to the nearest dollar.

Stash will transfer the remaining amount to your cash balance. For instance, if you used a debit card to purchase $20.59 worth of groceries, Stash will round the purchase up to $21.

You can set up the Stash mobile app on iOS or Android devices.

Acorns and Stash are both great for beginner investors looking for guidance as they navigate the investment process. The two investment apps both offer three pricing plans paired with monthly fees, and they generally provide the same account options. 

The two biggest differences between Acorns and Stash are fees and investment choices. Acorns' plans cost $1, $3, and $5 per month. Stash's pricing plans, on the other hand, carry fees of $1, $3, and $9 per month. With Acorns, you'll have access to ETF portfolios, but you'll be able to individually choose stocks or ETFs with Stash.

Another distinction to consider is that Acorns is solely automated, meaning you won't be able to pick and trade investments on your own. Acorns handles this process for you. On the contrary, Stash is more of a hybrid brokerage/automated advisor that simultaneously gives you control over your investment decisions while offering automated tools to support them.

If you're looking to save money on investing and online banking, Stash could be the better option. Though Stash isn't as automated as Acorns, you'll only need $1 per month to take advantage of its banking products. With Acorns, you'll need at least $3 per month to utilize investing and online banking.

Overall, Acorns is the better choice for hands-off investors who prefer automated investment management. However, Stash could be the stronger option for those who want the best of both worlds when it comes to DIY trading and automated investing. 

Rickie Houston is a wealth-building reporter at Personal Finance Insider who covers investing, brokerage, and wealth-building products.