There are plenty of low-cost brokerages, mobile-first personal finance apps, and robo-advisor investing platforms out there. Every week, it seems, there’s a new personal finance solution, whether it’s a lightweight automated savings app, mold-breaking brokerage platform for new investors with modest net worths, or new approach to tax-advantaged retirement investing.
Does the world really need another?
The folks behind Stash apparently think so, and their product makes a convincing case for it. Stash merges the convenience of online banking and DIY investing with the mostly reasonable fee structure of an automated robo-advisor.
Stash Plans & Features
Though it has broad appeal, Stash really shines for middle-income couples and families looking for a single money management platform without lots of added baggage. Despite a nice lineup of ETFs and low investing minimums, it’s not ideal for sophisticated investors or those with meager investable assets.
Stash offers three plans: Beginner, Growth, and Stash+. Each has its own mix of features and capabilities.
For taxable brokerage accounts, the monthly plan fee, or Wrap Fee, bundles common fees charged by investing platforms, including advisory and transaction fees. For retirement accounts, Stash may charge an additional advisory fee based on the value of client assets under management.
Fees incorporated into securities’ expense ratios, if applicable, aren’t bundled into the Wrap Fee and may reduce account holders’ net growth, earnings, or both. Ancillary fees may apply in certain situations.
The Beginner plan is ideal for new Stash account holders who aren’t sure the platform is right for them. It’s a great way to get your feet wet without spending too much. Beginner costs $1 per month.(3)
Beginner’s key features include:
- Personal Investing Account. Stash is built around Stash Invest, a taxable personal investment account (brokerage) with no commissions or transaction fees. Starting with an initial investment of as little as $1, you can purchase whole or fractional shares of individual stocks on Stash. Most of these stocks are mid- and large-cap firms listed in the Dow 30, NASDAQ 100, and S&P 500 market indexes. For those seeking other investment options, Stash Invest also offers a couple dozen third-party ETFs that track specific market sectors, entire indexes, or geographic regions. Although these ETFs charge fees (bundled into their expense ratios) that Stash can’t control, most are reasonably priced. And they can help you construct a diversified portfolio with an asset allocation that’s appropriate for your risk level. The Stash investment app is compatible with Apple and Android devices.
- Debit Account(8). All Stash personal investing account holders are eligible to open a Stash Banking account with no overdraft(8), monthly maintenance, or minimum balance fees(9), and no direct deposit, in-network ATM balance check, or lost card replacement fees. Users who set up a direct deposit can get access to their paycheck up to two days early10. Like many checking accounts, the Stash debit account is FDIC-insured and includes access to 19,000+ fee-free U.S. ATMs.(5)
- Debit Card With Stock-Back. Each Stash debit account comes with a debit card you can use online and at physical points of sale. If you opt in to Stash’s optional Stock-Back program(4), you can earn fractional shares of stock on every eligible purchase. If publicly traded stock of the merchant is not available on the Stash Platform, the stock reward will be in an ETF of your choice. For instance, purchases made through Amazon earn Amazon stock. Bear in mind that the Stash debit card is not a credit card and doesn’t allow users to carry balances.
- Auto-Stash. Auto-Stash is a bundle of automated saving and investing products that may reduce the time required to manage your Stash investments(6). The scheduling feature allows you to set recurring transfers ahead of automatic market investments. The Round-Up feature rounds every debit purchase to the nearest dollar and sets aside the difference (your spare charge, essentially) for future investments. And the Smart-Stash feature automatically saves small sums when Stash’s software thinks you can afford it.
The Growth plan offers tools for day-to-day money management and longer-term investing. For $3 per month(3), it offers a wider range of features geared toward individuals and couples who’ve merged their finances.
Growth includes all of the features of the Beginner plan, plus:
- Retirement Investing Accounts. At this price point, Stash Invest offers two tax-advantaged retirement investing accounts(1): a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA. These accounts are subject to annual IRS contribution limits and withdrawal restrictions, and they may incur an additional management fee assessed as a percentage of the assets under management. Otherwise, they’re functionally equivalent to Stash’s taxable investing account.
- Life Insurance Through Avibra. The Growth plan comes with $1,000 in no-cost life insurance coverage through Avibra.
Stash+ is a premium plan that bundles all Stash features into one higher-priced package. For users with substantial investable assets of over $30,000, it’s not a bad deal compared with other automated wealth management platforms. But, at $9 per month, it’s a steep price for beginners.
Stash+ includes all of the features of the Growth plan, plus:
- Custodial Accounts (UGMA/UTMA) for Up To Two Kids. Stash lets you open up to two UTMA/UGMA custodial investing accounts for minor children. Custodial accounts work just like Stash’s taxable investing account for adults. Because they’re more versatile than tax-advantaged education savings accounts, they’re great for teaching kids to save and invest at any age. You control accounts with minor beneficiaries. Once the beneficiaries reach the age of majority, they assume account ownership and can use the funds as they see fit. Before opening a custodial account (UGMA/UTMA) with Stash, check your state’s UTMA/UGMA regulations and IRS guidance on federal income tax liability.
- Metal Debit Card With 2x Stock-Back. Stash+ plan holders receive a classy metal debit card that earns twice the Stock-Back(4) on every eligible transaction.
- Monthly Market Insights Report. Stash produces a monthly market newsletter exclusively for Stash+ users. It’s designed to keep savvy investors abreast of market developments and investing strategies.
- More Life Insurance Through Avibra. The Stash+ plan comes with $10,000 in no-cost life insurance coverage through Avibra.
Monthly plan fees aren’t the only fees you may incur as a Stash user. Stash’s ancillary charges include fees for:
- Paper statements
- Paper trade confirmations
- Paper prospectuses
- Outgoing account transfers
- Paper checks
Most fees apply only in one-off situations, such as account transfers, or can be avoided by changing customer preferences — for instance, by declining paper communications.
The Stash debit card has relatively low fees for a reloadable prepaid debit card. However, Stash’s debit card issuer, Green Dot, may charge account fees that Stash can’t control. These include:
- Out-of-network ATM withdrawal and balance inquiry fees
- Teller cash withdrawal fees
- Cash deposit fees
- Foreign transaction fees
These are among the top reasons to consider managing your money with Stash.
- Reasonable Management Fees for Most Investors. Stash’s management fees are reasonable by the standards of the discount brokerage and robo-advisor industries. Because Stash plans charge flat monthly fees, rather than a percentage of the assets under management, these fees are regressive. In other words, they take a proportionally higher share of low-asset investors’ funds. This fee structure incentivizes new account holders to bring serious money to the table, not merely to dip their toes into Stash’s waters. If you have $20,000 or more to invest at once, you may make out well with Stash.
- Stock-Back Program Rewards Everyday Debit Card Transactions. It may be riskier than a traditional cash-back program, but Stash’s opt-in Stock-Back program(4) also has a higher upside: It empowers you to double down on the implicit trust you place in every merchant you do business with. That may help you make more thoughtful purchasing decisions. For instance, if you want to fight climate change, perhaps you’ll think twice about swiping your Stash debit card at your neighborhood BP station.
- No Add-on Trading Commissions(3). Stash doesn’t charge add-on trading commissions on individual stock or ETF purchases. That’s a big advantage over popular “discount” brokerages, many of which still charge for individual stock trades.
- Wider Range of ETFs Than Some Competing Platforms. Stash has a few dozen ETFs in its database, from industry-specific products to broad-based global market index funds. That’s an advantage over true robo-advisor platforms, some of which simply allocate investors’ money across a handful of funds based on reported risk tolerance — a cookie-cutter approach that may not serve investors’ best interests.
- Custodial Accounts (UGMA/UTMA) for Kids. Stash+ plan holders can open up to two custodial accounts (UGMA/UTMA) for minor children. If you’ve been searching in vain for an investing platform that serves your entire family, you may find it in Stash.
Weigh these disadvantages carefully before choosing Stash.
- No Free Trial Period. Stash has no free trial option for new account holders. From the first month your account is open, you’ll be on the hook for the monthly Wrap Fee, plus any ancillary fees your account activity may incur. If you can tolerate the limited range of features, you can mitigate the hit by starting with the Beginner plan.
- Few Value-Added Tools and Services for Serious DIY Investors. Stash doesn’t offer the sorts of high-powered market research and analytic tools available at full-service brokerages. It has a rudimentary How to Invest primer, a decent blog covering basic personal finance and investing concepts, and a monthly insights newsletter for Stash+ plan holders. But beyond that, Stash’s knowledge base is pretty thin. If you’re a serious DIY investor or day trader, these resources won’t cut it for you.
- No Qualified Plans for Business Owners or Self-Employed Investors. Stash doesn’t offer specialized retirement investing options for business owners or self-employed investors. You can’t open a solo 401(k), SEP IRA, or SIMPLE retirement account here, for instance — only traditional and Roth IRAs, whose tax advantages are suboptimal for higher-income business owners and sole proprietors.
- Limited Selection of Individual Stocks. While Stash’s stock database includes plenty of well-known blue-chip stocks and growth plays, it’s a small fraction of all U.S. market listings. For DIY investors who prefer to carefully research every single holding for opportunities others might miss, Stash’s selection leaves much to be desired.
Stash is a user-friendly banking and investing app that, for the typical middle-income consumer, can plausibly serve as an all-in-one money management tool.
Due to its flat-fee pricing, it’s not great for very low-asset customers. And sophisticated investors may prefer investing platforms with more choice, features, and firepower. For everyone else, Stash is worth a closer look.
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 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.
2 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.
3 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.
4 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 have any responsibility to fulfill any stock rewards earned through this program.
5 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.
6 The recurring transfers feature is offered by Stash Investments LLC and is not sponsored or endorsed by Green Dot Bank.
7 Bank Account Services are provided by, and Stash Visa Debit Card is issued by, Green Dot Bank, Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. Investment products and services are 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.
8 Transaction is declined and no fee is charged.
9 Other fees apply to the bank account. Please see Deposit Account Agreement for details.
10 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 are offered by Stash Investments LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser.