Micro-investing is a modern phenomenon that makes investing in the stock market accessible to anyone with an internet connection and a bank account. New financial technology companies continue to surface in this space, each putting forward a unique spin on everyday investing.
Acorns launched a micro-investing app in 2014 that puts your digital “spare change” to work. It became known for its flagship Round Ups feature, which helps users invest a few cents anytime they spend money.
Stash emerged in 2015 as an auto-investing app, with features focused on setting a schedule of small, automated investments into portfolios that support causes and industries you care about.
Both investment apps have grown since and developed additional features to keep up with continually creeping competition in fintech. These financial companies offer products to help you invest, save, bank, manage money, and prepare for retirement.
The product offerings in each app look similar, but the features vary, and you have to look into the details to determine which is the best place for your money.
Acorns and Stash both started as simple micro-investing apps, so the core product of each is a personal investment account. Both have expanded, however, to include options for retirement and banking, as well.
The apps’ offerings are similar, but each has subtly different features, pricing, and capabilities that could make one or the other a better fit for your financial goals and lifestyle.
Acorns and Stash each offer three types of accounts in a single app: investment, retirement, and banking. The capabilities of each account vary slightly between the brands.
Acorns Account Options
- Acorns Invest. Acorns’ core product is an investment account that uses your “spare change” to invest in exchange-traded funds (ETFs) made up of stocks and bonds. You can choose how conservative or aggressive a portfolio you want among six options, but you can’t choose which ETFs make up your portfolio.
- Acorns Later. This individual retirement account (IRA) lets you manage retirement savings in the same place as your other Acorns investing and checking accounts. It automatically sets you up with a Roth IRA, traditional IRA, or SEP IRA (for self-employed business owners) when you sign up, depending on your lifestyle and goals. It also automatically rebalances the account as you age or your lifestyle changes to help you meet retirement goals.
- Acorns Spend. Anyone with an Acorns account can open this FDIC-protected checking account backed by Lincoln Savings Bank and receive an Acorns Spend debit card.
- Acorns Early. Open a custodial investment account (UGMA/UTMA) for as many kids as you’d like, without any added cost per kid.
Stash Account Options
- Stash Invest. Stash’s flagship product, a personal investment account, lets you purchase fractional shares of stocks, bonds, and ETFs1 for as little as $0.012. Choose individual stocks or bonds to purchase or invest in ETFs based on the issues or types of companies you want to back.
- Stash Retire. Open a traditional or Roth IRA to save for retirement through the same micro-investing methods as Stash Invest uses3.
- Banking. A Stash banking (aka debit) account is an online checking account through Green Dot Bank4. The bank account includes Direct Deposit, Bill Pay, ATM Access, and a debit card. Plus, it supports your Invest account with the option to earn stock-back Rewards through your debit card and recurring transfers5.
- Custodial Accounts. Open custodial accounts for up to two children — you don’t have to be the parent. Investments work the same as a personal investment account. When the child turns 18, they can take over the account and continue to invest or withdraw and use the funds.
Both Acorns and Stash let you make manual contributions to your investment accounts anytime, plus each offers multiple ways to automate contributions based on your lifestyle, goals, and spending habits.
Acorns Contribution Methods
- Round Ups. When you make a purchase with a linked card, Acorns rounds up to the next dollar and invests the change. It invests Real-Time Round Ups from your Acorns debit card immediately from your Spend account. It also invests Round Ups from linked cards once they total $5, and the money comes from the single account you set up as a funding source. Set Acorns to invest Round Ups automatically, or review them manually whenever you want. Use Round Ups Multiplier to invest double, triple, or 10 times each Round Up amount.
- Found Money. Similar to a cash-back program, Acorns Found Money lets you earn up to 10% back for shopping at partner brands with your connected credit or debit card. Acorns automatically invests Found Money funds into your Invest account.
- One-Time Investment. You can make a one-time contribution to your Acorns Invest or Later account anytime through the app.
- Recurring Investment. Set up a daily, weekly, or monthly contribution of any amount from your funding source to your Acorns Invest or Later account.
You can fund an Acorns Spend account through paycheck direct deposit, or manual transfer from an external bank account or PayPal.
Stash Contribution Methods
Stash offers three automated ways, collectively dubbed Auto-Stash, to contribute to your investment accounts, including:
- Set Schedule (Auto-Stash). Select an amount to contribute daily, weekly, or monthly to 1) your personal, retirement, or custodial investment account or 2) your cash balance, a reserve of money ready for you to allocate to investments.
- Smart-Stash. This feature analyzes your income and expenses, including recurring expenses such as bills, to find small amounts of money — $5, $10, or $25 — you can afford to save periodically into your cash balance.
- Round-Ups. Every time you spend from your linked external bank account, Stash will round to the nearest dollar and stick the digital change into your cash balance.
Stash banking customers can also earn stock rewards through Stock-Back7: Enroll your Stash debit card to receive pieces of stock that correspond to your purchase. For example, if you shop at Starbucks, you earn Starbucks stock. Stash+ members earn double Stock-Back rewards.
You can fund a Stash banking account through direct deposit or manual bank transfer within the app.
Fees and Costs
Acorns and Stash, as well as other micro-investing apps, aim to make investing accessible with low-cost products for people who can’t pay a financial adviser or spare thousands of dollars to invest.
To that end, they both limit fees — but do your math. Even $1 per month could be a substantial percentage of your assets under management if you only invest spare change, so ensure you invest and earn enough to make the fees worth it.
Acorns offers three subscription levels. You’ll pay a single monthly fee based on the products you want to use:
- Life, Including Invest. $1 per month until you have $1 million invested
- Personal, Including Invest, Later, and Spend. $3 per month until you have $1 million invested
- Family, Including Invest, Later, and Spend, and Early. $5 per month
You can’t mix and match products any other way. In other words, if you want a Spend account, you have to pay $3 per month and have access to a Spend, Later, and Invest account, whether you contribute to the investment accounts or not.
The minimum deposit to open an account is $5.
Acorns Spend charges few fees other than the monthly subscription. There are no fees for bank transfers, overdrafts, minimum balance requirements, or foreign transactions, and it reimburses ATM fees each month.
You may also pay fees associated with investments.
Stash offers three subscription levels with varying access to its financial products:
- Beginner. For $1 per month, get Stash Invest and banking accounts, and earn Stock-Back rewards8.
- Growth. For $3 per month, get Stash Invest, banking, and retirement accounts and earn Stock-Back rewards8.
- Stash+. For $9 per month, get personal investment, banking, and retirement accounts, and Stock-Back rewards, plus custodial investment accounts for two kids and a metal debit card for your banking account8.
You can open a stand-alone Retire account for $2 per month by contacting Stash customer service directly. Generally, however, every Stash user starts with Invest and banking accounts.
Stash doesn’t set a minimum deposit to open an account.
A Stash banking account doesn’t charge fees for overdrafts or have minimum balance requirements9. Purchases outside the U.S. are subject to foreign transaction fees.
You can get access to thousands of fee-free ATMs10. You’ll pay a $2.50 withdrawal fee for out-of-network ATMs, plus any fee the ATM’s bank charges. You may be subject to pay up to $4.95 to deposit cash at Green Dot retail locations (varies by retail location).
You may also pay a management fee associated with investments.
Checking Account Features
Acorns and Stash each offer a checking account through partner banks. The accounts seem similar, but a look under the hood reveals significant differences in functionality.
Acorns Spend Account Features
The Acorns Spend account is made to support your investment activity, so you don’t benefit much if you don’t also want to invest with Acorns.
Like any checking account, you can fund Acorns Spend through paycheck direct deposit or transfer from another account, such as a bank or PayPal account.
- Acorns Visa Debit Card. Acorns Spend customers get a high-design debit card made of tungsten metal, which you can use for everyday purchases and ATM transactions.
- Real-Time Round Ups. Round Ups from your Acorns debit card come from Spend and happen in real time.
- Compatible With PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay. The Acorns debit card automatically works with Apple Pay or Google Pay (formerly known as Android Pay), and you can transfer money between a PayPal account and your Spend account. Spend is not compatible with other mobile payment apps, such as Zelle.
- Bill Pay. The account doesn’t include a bill payment feature, but you can use your account and routing numbers to set up bill pay with servicers.
- Withdrawing Funds. Withdraw money through an ATM (maximum $500 per day) or by transferring to an external account (maximum $7,000 per day).
- Check and Cash Deposit. You can’t deposit checks or cash into a Spend account via ATM, but you have access to mobile check deposit through the Acorns app (maximum $5,000 per day).
- Checks. Acorns doesn’t provide checkbooks or checks, and third-party check services won’t work.
The Acorns Spend account is designed primarily to support Acorns investing, so you need to have an additional account to cover all your financial needs. It does not support joint checking accounts.
Stash Banking Features
Stash’s banking account works through Green Dot, a prolific online banking service and FDIC-member bank.
Through the Green Dot technology and financial services network, it offers greater functionality than Acorns Spend and could become your primary checking account.
- Visa Debit Card. A Stash banking account comes with a Visa debit card, and you can earn Stock-Back rewards on purchases from participating merchants. Stash+ members get a metal debit card and double rewards7. You’ll receive the card in the mail after depositing at least $0.01 into a Stash banking account.
- Cash Management Tools. You can bucket your money into savings goals and expenses through partitions12 so you can spend what you know you can spare.
- ASAP Direct Deposit. Set up direct deposit to Stash, and you can get your paycheck in your bank account up to two days early13.
- Digital Wallet Integration. Stash debit card works with Samsung Pay™, Google Pay, and Apple Pay®.
- Compatible With Mobile Payment Apps. Make and receive payments by connecting your Stash account to Venmo, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and Square Cash.
- Bill Pay. Set up electronic payments or have a paper check mailed to cover rent and other bills.
- Withdrawing Funds. Withdraw money at an ATM or into a linked external bank account.
- Check and Cash Deposit. Deposit cash (up to $2,500 per day) at Green Dot participating retailers, including CVS, Walmart, Walgreens, and Rite Aid, for a fee up to $4.95. Deposit checks through the Stash mobile app for no additional fee.
- Checks. You can’t order checks from Stash, but you can schedule checks to send via bill pay in the app (limitations apply and paper checks usually take five to seven business days to arrive). Stash does not support joint checking accounts.
Stash does not support joint checking accounts.
Neither Acorns nor Stash gives customers access to live human advisers for personalized investment advice.
Instead, both have technology and finance professionals working in the background to keep your investments on track. They each also provide resources to help you learn about investing and money management in general.
Acorns Financial Education
Through Acorns’ Grow blog, the company, in partnership with CNBC, shares articles on personal finance topics ranging from borrowing and repaying debt to strategies for making and saving money.
Stash Financial Education
Through Stash Learn articles on its blog and in the app, Stash provides personal finance information and guidance, money news, and lifestyle content.
Mobile and Web Apps
Both Acorns and Stash are designed primarily with mobile users in mind, so their apps for smartphones and tablets offer the products’ full range of features.
Acorns Mobile and Web Access
You can access your account through the Acorns website, but the mobile app is the best experience.
Access all Acorns features through the mobile app, including:
- Open, manage, and see the balance on Invest, Later, Spend, and Early accounts
- Connect your bank account to fund Acorns accounts
- View and manage Round Ups
- Set up recurring and one-time contributions
- Transfer, deposit, and withdraw money from Spend
- Deposit paper checks into your Spend account
- See Found Money opportunities
Stash Mobile and Web Access
You can access your Stash accounts through its website or mobile apps, available for iOS and Android.
All Stash features are available through the mobile app, including:
- Open, manage, and see balances for your investment and banking accounts
- Connect an external bank account for Rounds Ups and funding
- Manage Auto-Stash settings
- Transfer, deposit, and withdraw money from your banking account
- Deposit paper checks into your banking account
- Schedule bill payments from your banking account
Stash is free to download in the App Store for iOS and on Google Play for Android.
Account Security Features
Acorns and Stash use nearly identical security measures to protect your money and digital data. They’re similar to those you’d find with any financial institution.
Acorns Security Features
Acorns investment accounts are SIPC-protected up to $500,000, and the Spend checking account is FDIC-insured up to $250,000 (both typical coverage amounts for financial institutions).
Acorns protects your data with bank-level security, using 256k-bit encryption and never storing information on your device. Your accounts also get continuous fraud monitoring and protection.
You can immediately lock and unlock your debit card in the Acorns app through Spend settings in case it’s lost or stolen.
Stash Security Features
Stash investments are SIPC-protected up to $500,000 total (including $250,000 for claims for cash). Investments are held by Apex Clearing Corporation, a third-party SEC-registered broker-dealer and member FINRA/SIPC, via the clearing agency Apex Clearing Corp., member SIPC. See www.spic.org for details.
Stash banking accounts are FDIC-insured up to $250,000. For uninvested funds, a Stash account is enrolled in the Apex FDIC-insured Sweep Program. Deposits to the Sweep Program are covered by FDIC insurance up to $250,000 per customer at each FDIC-insured bank that participates in the Sweep Program. Cash deposited under the Sweep Program is no longer covered by SIPC.
These registrations do not imply a certain level of skill, but they do require Stash to follow federal regulations that protect the investor.
The Verdict: Is Acorns or Stash Right for You?
Acorns and Stash each lead with unique features, but they’ve developed similar offerings since inception to stay competitive. A novice investor could get a good start investing using either app, but one or the other could give you a slight edge, depending on your financial goals.
Use Acorns If…
- You Want to Make the Most of Your Spending Habits. Acorns offers rewards for purchases with any linked debit and credit cards and your Acorns debit card, while Stash only offers Stock-Back for purchases with a Stash debit card.
- You’re a Hands-Off Investor. You can only select from among six portfolios, based on your risk tolerance. Acorns professionals choose your asset allocation and which ETFs make up your investment portfolio, so you don’t have to know which companies make the best investments. Unlike Stash, Acorns also lets you set Round Ups for automatic investment, so you don’t have to move money around manually.
- You’re Self-Employed. Acorns offers a SEP IRA for small-business owners, which Stash does not.
Use Stash If…
- You Want All Financial Services in One Place. Stash’s banking account is more robust than Acorns’ and could act as your primary checking account. The app’s features let you manage expenses, savings, personal investing, retirement, and kids’ investing in one place.
- You Want to Control Your Investments. Stash lets you choose individual stocks, bonds, and ETFs to purchase if you want to, which Acorns does not. That makes it a better fit if you want to manage your investments more actively.
- Your Bank Balance Ebbs and Flows. With Smart-Stash, you can automate savings without worrying about draining your bank account. Acorns only allows a recurring investment of a set amount, which could be frustrating if you live paycheck to paycheck or your income fluctuates.
Both Apps Are Great If…
- You’re a New Investor. Micro-investing apps, on the whole, are great for novice investors because they let you dip your toe in the stock market without risking much money. Acorns and Stash each offer tons of guidance and support to help users understand their investments and the basics of investing in general.
- You Want Automated Investing. Each app offers unique options for automating contributions to your investment accounts, including through scheduled contributions, transaction round ups, auto-saving, and debit card rewards. They let you invest in the background without thinking about it.
- You Want to Invest With Small Amounts of Money. Both apps let you invest less than $1 at a time, so anyone can invest in the stock market. That’s useful if you want to try investing without risking much, and if you want to continuously grow your account but have a low cash flow.
- You Want More Retirement Savings Options. A 401(k) is a smart place to start your retirement planning if it’s available, but an IRA is a smart way to diversify your investments and maximize your possible tax benefits. Both apps let you contribute to an IRA with tiny contributions, which could grow significantly over the long term before you retire.
- You Like Mobile Banking. Each app gives you access to a digital banking platform, so you can manage your checking account from your smartphone, including depositing checks anytime. Housing your checking account within the same app as your investment and retirement accounts lets you get a big-picture look at your finances in one place and could simplify your money management.
- You Want to Invest for Kids. Stash lets you open custodial investment accounts for up to two kids, and Acorns offers Acorns Early custodial accounts for any number of kids. That makes either app a good fit to teach your kids about investing and contribute to their future financial success with the same small contributions and automatic options you get for your own investment accounts.
Either Acorns or Stash could be a great fit for any novice investor who wants to dip their toes in the market with a little bit of cash at a time. They offer the convenience of a robo-advisor< like Betterment or Wealthfront, but with lower barriers to entry.
Both open investment options to more people by letting you invest in ETFs and fractional shares of stocks, so you can support lucrative stocks with just a few spare cents. Both also provide ongoing financial education to get you up to speed on investing best practices, learn more about where your money is going, and improve your financial habits.
Each offers similar methods for automating your investments through manual, recurring, and round-up contributions. Stash uniquely offers Smart-Stash to determine how much you can afford to set aside, which is useful if your income varies.
The greatest variance between the apps is in the checking account features.
Acorns’ stripped-down Spend account can support your investment activity, but bill pay is inconvenient, you can’t send money with digital payment apps, and you have no way to order checks or deposit cash. Stash’s full-service banking account through Green Dot supports check or electronic bill pay, mobile payments, and cash deposits, so it’s a smarter option for a primary checking account.
Both apps let you get started investing now, rather than waiting until you can afford traditional investing routes, so your money has more time to grow. Just keep an eye on your return to make sure you don’t lose all your interest earnings to fees.
This material is not intended as investment advice and is not meant to suggest that any securities are suitable investments for any particular investor. Investment advice is only provided to Stash customers. All investments are subject to risk and may lose value.
1 Before investing in any exchange-traded fund, consider your investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses.
2 For Securities priced over $1,000, purchase of fractional shares starts at $0.05.
3 Stash does not monitor whether a customer is eligible for a particular type of IRA, or a tax deduction, or if a reduced contribution limit applies to a customer. These are based on a customer’s individual circumstances. You should consult with a tax advisor.
4 Debit Account Services provided by and Stash Visa Debit Card issued by Green Dot Bank, Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. Investment products and services provided by Stash Investments LLC, not Green Dot Bank, and are Not FDIC Insured, Not Bank Guaranteed, and May Lose Value. In order for a user to be eligible for a Stash debit account, they must also have opened a taxable brokerage account on Stash. Account opening of the debit account is subject to Green Dot Bank approval.
5 The recurring transfers feature is offered by Stash Investments LLC and is not sponsored or endorsed by Green Dot Bank.
6 The adult (or Custodian) who opens the account can manage the money and investments until the minor reaches the “age of majority.” That age is usually 18 or 21, depending on the Custodian’s state. The money in a custodial account is the property of the minor. Money in a custodial account can be used by the parent or legal guardian, but only to do things that benefit the child.
7 Stash Stock-BackⓇ is not sponsored or endorsed by Green Dot Bank, Green Dot Corporation, Visa U.S.A., or any of their respective affiliates, and none of the foregoing has any responsibility to fulfill any stock rewards earned through this program.
8 You’ll also bear the standard fees and expenses reflected in the pricing of the ETFs in your account, plus fees for various ancillary services charged by Stash and the custodian.
9 Other fees apply to the debit account. Please see Deposit Account Agreement for details.
10 Fee-free ATM access applied to in-network ATMs only. For out-of-network ATMs and bank tellers a $2.50 fee will apply, plus any additional fee that the ATM owner or bank may charge.
11 Transaction is declined and no fee is charged.
12 Money in a partition must be moved to the available balance in your bank account before it can be used and does not earn interest.
13 Early access to your direct deposit depends on deposit verification and when Green Dot Bank gets notice from your employer, and may vary from pay period to pay period.
Money Crashers is a paid Affiliate/partner of Stash. Investment advisory services offered by Stash Investments LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser.