What are the best micro-investing apps?
A few dollars here and there can add up. Even if you can’t make $500 mutual fund purchases every month, you can build an investment portfolio from smaller deposits over time. Eventually, you could be in a position to invest using a more sophisticated platform than the micro-investing app you begin with.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Without further ado, our list of the best micro-investing apps on the market right now.
The Best Micro-Investing Apps
Our pick for overall best micro-investing app, Stash, does several things really well and delivers the best overall value for new, lower-net-worth investors.
The other apps on this list all shine on one or two key points, like automated saving and investing features or beginner-friendliness.
Best Overall: Stash
Stash packs the most features into the leanest package, delivering the best overall value for micro-investors. It offers three reasonably priced subscription plans:
- Beginner. For $1/month, Beginner comes with a commission-free taxable brokerage account where you can purchase whole or fractional shares of individual stocks in increments of $1 or more. It also includes an FDIC-insured debit account with a debit card that earns stock rewards (Stock-Back) and two great automation features: Round-up (rounds up and invests the change on debit card purchases) and Smart-Stash (makes small automated investments whenever Stash thinks you can afford them).
- Growth. For $3/month, Growth adds a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA and a managed investing option for your taxable and retirement accounts.
- Stash+. For $9/month, Stash+ adds up to two UTMA/UGMA custodial investing accounts, a metal debit card with 2x Stock-Back rewards, and $10,000 in no-cost life insurance coverage through Avibra.
Best for Automated Saving and Investing: Acorns
Acorns is the best choice for micro-investors whose top priority is set-it-and-forget-it investing automation. It offers two powerful automation features:
- Round-ups, which rounds up and invest the change on every purchase with your connected debit card
- Found Money, which rewards you for shopping with partner companies (up to 10% back) and invests the reward
- Round-up Multipliers, which multiply the value of each round-up by up to 10x
- Custodial accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Fractional share investing starting at $0.01 per purchase
- Mobile check deposit and digital wallet integration
Best for Active Investors: Robinhood
Robinhood is the best micro-investing app for more experienced investors who prefer an active, self-directed approach. Its user-friendly interface enables seamless buying and selling of stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrencies — with no commissions, ever.
- Invest in fractional shares with increments as low as $1
- Access to additional market data with Robinhood Gold subscription ($5/month)
- Margin trading with Robinhood Gold and a $2,000 minimum account balance
- Ability to buy and sell options contracts
Best for Beginners: Public
Public does its best to demystify investing for beginners with low minimums, prohibitions on day trading, and clear, plain-English definitions of common investing terms wherever they appear. That’s enough to make Public the best micro-investing app for beginners.
- Invest with just $5
- Fractional share investing available
- Build multi-company portfolios with one click using Public’s thematic investing feature
- Drag and drop to separate short-term and long-term investments for tax optimization
- Follow other Public users and companies to get investing ideas
Best for Parents and Kids: Greenlight + Invest
Greenlight is a financial education tool built around a kid-friendly debit card with full parental controls.
Upgrade to Greenlight + Invest for $7.98/month ($3/month more than the base plan) to get access to a custodial micro-investing account too. It’s the perfect first brokerage account for tomorrow’s market-savvy investor.
- In-app chore list that triggers deposits when kids complete household jobs
- Automated weekly or monthly allowance transfers
- Customizable spending rules and real-time debit card notifications
- Customizable earning, spending, and saving goals for kids
Best for College Students and Recent Grads: SoFi Invest
SoFi Invest is just one piece of the much bigger pie that is SoFi. There’s a lot for anyone to like about SoFi, but the company is particularly friendly to college students and recent graduates. That’s due to products and features like:
- Competitively priced student loan refinancing products
- Private student loans for borrowers with good or better credit (or cosigners)
- Credit scoring and budgeting tools for recent graduates beginning the credit-building journey
Plus, SoFi Invest clients get special rates and terms on SoFi loans, which already offer great value.
- Minimum of just $1 to open an account
- Option to schedule one-on-one consultations with a SoFi financial advisor
- Automatic portfolio rebalancing every quarter
- Plan for multiple financial goals simultaneously
Best for Banking Features: M1 Finance
M1 Finance is more than a micro-investing account. It’s an all-in-one financial platform that lets you bank, invest, and borrow in the same place. Open a checking account alongside your investment account to get a free debit card that’s accepted at millions of merchants. Then, once you’ve reached the minimum investment account balance, borrow against your investments using M1’s low-cost portfolio loan product — no credit check required.
- Build your investment portfolio with any of dozens of prebuilt template portfolios (“expert portfolios”)
- Or use “custom slices” to further diversify your investments
- Pay no management fees to M1, ever
- Premium subscription (M1 Plus) with added features for $125/year
Methodology: How We Select the Best Micro-Investing Apps
We use 7 key metrics to evaluate micro-investing apps and select the very best for our users.
Some factors concern the apps’ core micro-investing capabilities, such as investing automation and investing options/style. Because micro-investing is a fairly simple process, we also consider other app features and capabilities, like budgeting tools and other financial products available. Generally, more comprehensive and capable apps rank better in our methodology.
Cost and Overall Value
Cost is an important consideration for any investors. It’s especially important for micro-investors, who are more likely to have strict budgets and modest account balances than investors who work with full-service financial advisors.
Fortunately, micro-investing apps generally don’t charge high trading commissions or asset management fees. Many combine their investing platforms and noninvesting features and services in tiered subscriptions. The higher-priced plans offer more bells and whistles than the entry-level options.
Many micro-apps offer some degree of investing automation, like recurring deposits that the app automatically invests in accordance with the account holder’s predefined goals and risk tolerance. The best go further with features that, for example, round up and automatically invest spare change from linked debit accounts.
In general, more automation is better in our book. We believe investors shouldn’t have to spend a great deal of time and effort managing their own investments if they prefer not to.
Micro-investors tend to be younger and less experienced than the median market participant. Accordingly, we give high marks to apps with lots of educational content and in-app guidance for novice and intermediate investors. Greenlight is our best-in-class micro-investing app for educational features because it’s specifically designed for teens to use with parents or mentors.
Investor Skill Level
Micro-investing apps tend to be more beginner-friendly than sophisticated trading platforms like InteractiveBrokers and Zacks Trade. There’s nothing wrong with those services, but they’re not the best choice for people who’ve never placed a stock trade before.
That said, micro-investing apps do target different skills levels along the novice-to-intermediate spectrum. We give high marks to apps at both sides of the continuum while specifically calling out two in particular: Public for beginners and M1 Finance for intermediates.
In this context, we define “investing style” as “active” or “passive.” Active investors prefer to place their own trades for individual stocks and ETFs, while passive investors are more inclined to use robo-advisors that do the work for them.
We don’t pass judgment on which approach is better. In fact, for many investors, both approaches are suitable for distinct purposes: active investing for short-term plays and passive investing for long-term goals like retirement and college savings.
Budgeting and Money Management Features
Many micro-investing apps have budgeting and money management features. Some, like Acorns and Stash, have separate checking or cash management accounts that are appropriate for day-to-day use. All other things being equal, we give higher marks to apps capable of replacing your budgeting or banking app (or both).
Availability of Other Financial Products and Features in the App
Our methodology doesn’t penalize micro-investing apps because they don’t offer checking accounts, loans, or face-to-face appointments with human financial advisors. After all, this is a list of micro-investing apps, not checking accounts or personal loan companies.
That said, we do consider the availability of other financial products in determining a micro-investing app’s overall value. For example, SoFi Invest is our top micro-investing pick for college students and recent graduates because it offers student loans and student loan refinancing products.
Become a Micro-Investing Expert: Your Questions Answered
You have questions about micro-investing apps. We have answers.
What Is Micro-Investing?
Micro-investing means purchasing stocks, ETFs, and other market-traded investments in very small quantities. Some micro-investing platforms allow purchases in increments as low as $1.
Many micro-investing platforms allow users to purchase fractional shares of stocks and ETFs. Fractional share purchases help investors buy lots of different securities and create truly diversified portfolios almost regardless of account balance.
How Much Does Micro-Investing Cost?
Many micro-investing platforms offer commission-free stock and ETF trading. On these platforms, buying individual stocks and funds costs virtually nothing.
Micro-investing platforms do need to make money somehow. Some, like Acorns and Stash, charge reasonable monthly subscription fees. These fees stay flat regardless of account balance, with higher-priced plans offering more features and capabilities than lower-priced options.
Some micro-investing platforms operate as robo-advisors. They charge investors a set annual fee that’s calculated based on the investor’s assets under management (AUM). These fees are usually much lower than those charged by full-service human financial advisors.
A smaller number of micro-investing platforms charge no fees for trading, subscriptions, or asset management. They make money in other ways, such as payment for order flow (PFOF). That’s when a broker directs customer stock orders to market-makers (the people and entities that actually place trades) in exchange for cash payments.
Can You Buy Fractional Shares of Stock With Micro-Investing?
It depends on the micro-investing platform you’re using, but the answer is often yes. Many of the apps on this list allow fractional share investing, some with minimums as low as $1 per trade.
Even if your micro-investing app doesn’t offer fractional share investing for new stock or fund purchases, it may allow you to reinvest dividends paid by stocks and funds you own. Often, dividend reinvestment results in fractional share purchases (for example, a $100 dividend might work out to 8.6 shares of stock).
Fun Facts About Micro-Investing
- Launched in 2010, Betterment was arguably the first “modern” micro-investing app. It was also the first true robo-advisor on the market.
- The Dividend Reinvestment Plans (DRIP) was the ancestor of modern micro-investing. Starting in the late 1960s, individual companies allowed investors to reinvest stock dividends in whole or fractional shares of company stock.
- By the 1980s and 1990s, thousands of companies offered DRIPs. The practice remains commonplace today and has been copied by mutual funds and ETFs.
- Those commission-free trades are nice, but they come at a cost. In the first half of 2021, Robinhood earned about 80% of its revenue from payment for order flow.