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Acorns vs Robinhood vs Stash Invest | Which is best for you?

Disclosure: Please note that this article may contain affiliate links

If you’re a beginner looking to dip your toes in investing, you have many options. Robo-advisors offer a great introduction to the world of investing without overwhelming you.

Three of the most popular platforms are Acorns, Robinhood, and Stash Invest. Each platform has its advantages and specialties that cater to specific types of investors.

Check out my review on Acorns vs Robinhood vs Stash Invest to determine which one is just right for you.

Active Traders
New Investors
Theme-based
Account Minimum
$0
$0
$0
Management Fee
0.00%
There are 3 options: $1monthly for taxable investment account. $2 for an IRA account and investment account and $3 a month for checking, investment and retirement account.
Subscription of $1 to $9 monthly depending on which program you chose.
Portfolio
ETFs (NYSE, NASDAQ),‎ Stocks, Options and Crypto
ETFs, stocks, bonds
Theme-based
Account Types
Individual
Individual and joint taxable accounts; traditional, Roth and SEP IRAs
Individual, taxabable, traditional and Roth IRA
Rebalancing
Tax Loss Harvesting
Fractional Shares
Automatic Deposits
SRI
Human Advice
Best for
Active investors who are interested in a free service that has the option to trade crypto currencies.
New investors who want to start saving by investing their spare change with a hands-off approach.
Self-directed beginner investors who are looking to get their feet wet in the investing world
Active Traders
Account Minimum
$0
Management Fee
0.00%
Portfolio
ETFs (NYSE, NASDAQ),‎ Stocks, Options and Crypto
Account Types
Individual
Rebalancing
Tax Loss Harvesting
Fractional Shares
Automatic Deposits
SRI
Human Advice
Best for
Active investors who are interested in a free service that has the option to trade crypto currencies.
New Investors
Account Minimum
$0
Management Fee
There are 3 options: $1monthly for taxable investment account. $2 for an IRA account and investment account and $3 a month for checking, investment and retirement account.
Portfolio
ETFs, stocks, bonds
Account Types
Individual and joint taxable accounts; traditional, Roth and SEP IRAs
Rebalancing
Tax Loss Harvesting
Fractional Shares
Automatic Deposits
SRI
Human Advice
Best for
New investors who want to start saving by investing their spare change with a hands-off approach.
Theme-based
Account Minimum
$0
Management Fee
Subscription of $1 to $9 monthly depending on which program you chose.
Portfolio
Theme-based
Account Types
Individual, taxabable, traditional and Roth IRA
Rebalancing
Tax Loss Harvesting
Fractional Shares
Automatic Deposits
SRI
Human Advice
Best for
Self-directed beginner investors who are looking to get their feet wet in the investing world

Acorns

Acorns is a micro-investor. It syncs with your main account, usually a credit card, and rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar. When you have $5 accumulated, Acorns invests it according to your chosen portfolio allocations.

Acorns doesn’t have an account minimum and is great for new investors worried about investing. It offers a hands-off approach – all you need to do is answer simple questions when you set up your account and then Acorns does the rest.

Investors can open a taxable or retirement account (both IRA and Roth IRA). Investors love it because it takes the ‘thinking’ out of investing. Every time you spend money, you invest money too, but it’s just spare change so it doesn’t make you go over budget.

Robinhood

Robinhood was the first platform to introduce zero-commission trading, while many have since followed – Robinhood was the pioneer. Robinhood operates mostly as a mobile app, but if you prefer a web browser, that’s available too.

Robinhood is great for ‘young investors’ who prefer advanced technology. Robinhood is user-friendly and simple at its best. New investors find it simple to use and not overwhelming, which is what new investors often need, as investing is scary when you first start. It takes just minutes to sign up you don’t need a minimum balance, so anyone can get started. With a low barrier to entry, it’s a great starting point for many.

Stash Invest

Stash is the perfect platform for investors who prefer DIY investments, but want advice too. You’ll get the same type of advice a human advisor would offer but at a fraction of the cost. It’s not your ‘traditional robo-advisor’ that asks you a set list of questions and creates your portfolio based on it. Instead, it asks questions and then guides you to the right investments.

Stash is user-friendly and is great for beginners and experienced investors who want a DIY approach to investing. If you’re looking for the program to make the choices for you, this isn’t it. But if you’re feeling adventurous and want to learn the ropes – Stash Invest may be just what you want.

What do they have in common?

Robinhood, Acorns, and Stash are all targeted to ‘beginners’ and they have a lot in common despite having three different methodologies.

Here’s how they are similar:

  • Acorns, Robinhood, and Stash Invest don’t require a minimum opening balance. This means anyone can get started even with just a few dollars.
  • All three platforms trade ETFs, exchange traded funds which is a great choice when you are a beginner and need to diversify your investments.
  • You can open an individual taxable account on all three platforms. A taxable account doesn’t have tax benefits like retirement accounts do.
  • You can set up automatic deposits on all three platforms. This takes the ‘thinking’ out of contributing to your investments and may make your money grow faster.
  • All three platforms are suitable for beginners, even though Stash Invest is a bit different, it’s still a great way for beginning investors to try their hand at investing.

How are they different?

Every investing platform will look and feel different, no matter how many similarities they have. Understanding the differences between Acorns, Robinhood, and Stash Invest will help you understand which one is right for you.

  • Acorns is for the investor who has minimal money to get started but wants to invest. If you never seem to find anything but spare change, Acorns is the right platform. It will round up your purchases and invest automatically for you – taking the thinking out of, which is just what most new investors need.
  • Robinhood is also great for beginners, but those that prefer mobile apps and modern technology. Its user interface is simple but robust enough for millennials just getting started with investing. You’ll need to actively transfer funds (or set up automatic deposit) with your Robinhood account, though so it takes a bit more thinking. You’ll also pick your investments from Robinhood’s suggestions, whereas Acorns picks investments for you.
  • Stash Invest is completely different than the other two as you do the investing, but Stash provides the advice. It doesn’t invest or manage your portfolio – you do it all. Stash just guides you along the way. Like Robinhood, though, you can contribute funds manually or set up automatic deposits.

In-depth comparison – 10 distinctions

1.    Goal Setting

All three platforms have goal setting features, but they each work differently.

Acorns creates a portfolio based on your goals. You answer some goal-based questions and Acorns does the rest. It’s as hands-off as you can get while still having somewhat of a say in how your money is invested.

Robinhood also asks questions about your goals and timeline, but you have more say in how you reach them. Robinhood suggests investments based on your risk tolerance and goal timeline, but you ultimately choose the investments and handle portfolio rebalancing to meet those goals.

Stash Invest is more similar to Robinhood than Acorns when it comes to goal setting. They look at your goals and create a plan, but it’s up to you to implement it. You can choose individual investments to include or exclude from your suggested portfolio. Stash Invest leaves you ‘on your own’ but with the help of an investor just a button away.

2.    Retirement Planning

Only Acorns and Stash offer retirement accounts. If you’re thinking of using Robinhood, you can only use it for taxable accounts, so keep that in mind.

Acorns ‘Later’ account is its retirement account. You can set up an IRA with recurring contributions of as little as $5 at a time. There’s no reason not to save for retirement with Acorns at your disposal if saving money is hard for you.

Stash Invest has both traditional IRA and Roth IRA options. Like Acorns, you can set up recurring contributions to help you stay on top of your retirement goals. Stash also offers plenty of advice and education for your retirement opportunities.

3.    Account Types

Each platform has different account options. Robinhood, as you probably guessed is the simplest. They only offer individual taxable accounts. This means you can’t sign up for an account with your spouse – but each of you can open an individual taxable account where you pay taxes on your capital gains.

Acorns and Stash offer individual taxable accounts and retirement accounts, both Roth and traditional IRA. Surprisingly, Acorns, which is the most basic robo-advisor allows joint retirement accounts, but Stash doesn’t. Acorns also offers SEP IRA options for the self-employed.

4.    Features and Accessibility

Acorns is the most accessible platform with its $0 minimum and the opportunity to invest your spare change. Even though it’s a basic platform, it has robust features too including:

  • 5 pre-built portfolios
  • You can set up automatic investments
  • Educational content in layman’s terms
  • Access to an Acorns Spend account which earns interest
  • The ability to earn ‘Found Money’ with your credit card linked to Acorns (money credited back to you for your purchases at partner stores)

Robinhood is also accessible with its $0 minimum. Its features are simple, yet robust for what it offers:

  • An interest-bearing cash management account
  • The option to trade cryptocurrencies
  • You can earn free stock if you refer other investors

Stash Invest is accessible with its $0 minimum, but it’s a more complex platform that requires you to do the trading, so make sure you’re ready for that. Its features include:

  • Access to a Stash Banking cash card that you can set up to round-up your purchases and invest the spare change (like Acorns)
  • Plenty of research that’s perfect for beginning investors
  • Earn stock-back (like cashback but in stocks) when you make purchases with your linked credit card
  • The option to reinvest your dividends rather than take them in cash

5.    Fees

Fees are an important part of any robo-advisor as they take away from your profits. All three platforms have a different pricing structure:

  • Acorns has 3 pricing tiers – $1/month for a taxable account, $2/month for a retirement and taxable account, and $3/month for a retirement, taxable, and checking account
  • Robinhood doesn’t have any management fees
  • Stash Invest has three subscription tiers at $1 for a taxable account, $3 for a taxable and retirement account, and $9 for all of that plus two investment accounts for kids

6.    Minimum Deposit

All three platforms don’t have a minimum deposit requirement.

7.    Portfolios

All three platforms vary considerably when looking at portfolios.

Acorns has five prebuilt portfolios for you to choose from. You cannot alter the investments in each portfolio – you must use the prebuilt options, each of which consists of ETFs.

Robinhood differs a bit. You have more trading options in addition to ETFs. You may trade stocks, cryptocurrency, and options.

Stash Invest only offers stocks and ETFs, but there are 2,000 investments to choose from.

8.    Tax Loss Harvesting

Tax-loss harvesting is important when you’re investing, but not one out of these three platforms offer it. Check out the best robos for tax loss harvesting here.

9.    Security

Each of the three platforms takes security seriously, but as is the case with any investment platform, there’s always a risk. All three platforms have SIPC insurance, which protects your investments should the platform go out of business.

10. Customer Service

Customer service is a crucial component of investing too, especially when you’re a beginner and trying to figure things out.

Unfortunately, all three platforms offer only email customer support.

While each of the platforms do their best to get back to your right away, it’s something to consider when choosing your investment platform knowing you can’t get an instant answer to your questions.

Acorns Pros and Cons

PROs
Everything’s automatic – If you don’t like thinking about depositing funds or making investments, let Acorns do it all for you from the savings to the investments.
CONs
Transfer fees – It costs $50 per ETF to have them transferred to another broker.
Connect as many cards as you wish – Acorns sweeps the spare change from every purchase on your cards into your investment account and then invests the money once you accumulate enough.
High monthly fees – You pay a monthly fee of $1 - $3 for Acorns. If you have $5,000 invested, that’s a 0.24% fee and you don’t get as many benefits as you would at say Wealthfront.
Small balance requirements – You only need $5 to start investing. While you obviously want more, it’s easy to get started and stay motivated.
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Great for new investors – If you’re trying out something new, Acorns is a great place to try it. They offer plenty of educational opportunities and guidance. 
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PROs
Everything’s automatic – If you don’t like thinking about depositing funds or making investments, let Acorns do it all for you from the savings to the investments.
Connect as many cards as you wish – Acorns sweeps the spare change from every purchase on your cards into your investment account and then invests the money once you accumulate enough.
Small balance requirements – You only need $5 to start investing. While you obviously want more, it’s easy to get started and stay motivated.
Great for new investors – If you’re trying out something new, Acorns is a great place to try it. They offer plenty of educational opportunities and guidance. 
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-
CONs
Transfer fees – It costs $50 per ETF to have them transferred to another broker.
High monthly fees – You pay a monthly fee of $1 - $3 for Acorns. If you have $5,000 invested, that’s a 0.24% fee and you don’t get as many benefits as you would at say Wealthfront.
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RobinHood Pros and Cons

PROs
Free, no commissions on trades, easy to understand user-interface
CONs
While the app is sleek and clean, the web platform is outdated and lacking
Simple and straightforward design makes finding companies and prices super easy
Slower customer support than M1 Finance
Ability to trade cryptocurrencies
If you’d like to perform any research or technical analysis, you’ll most likely have to use other platforms outside of Robinhood
Free stock when you send a referral link or sign up using someone else’s
They don’t offer retirement accounts
PROs
Free, no commissions on trades, easy to understand user-interface
Simple and straightforward design makes finding companies and prices super easy
Ability to trade cryptocurrencies
Free stock when you send a referral link or sign up using someone else’s
CONs
While the app is sleek and clean, the web platform is outdated and lacking
Slower customer support than M1 Finance
If you’d like to perform any research or technical analysis, you’ll most likely have to use other platforms outside of Robinhood
They don’t offer retirement accounts

Stash Invest Pros and Cons

PROs
A wide selection of investments – Stash has more than 2,000 investments to choose from. Don’t worry that you’ll get overwhelmed, they narrow it down by your risk tolerance and desired themes before presenting you with choices.
CONs
The monthly fees can be a high percentage of assets under management if you don’t have a lot invested.
Plenty of education – Stash provides extensive education on their website that anyone can use, but is great for beginners.
The ETF expense ratios are on the high side.
There’s no minimum balance required - You can open an account with as little as $1 if you want. This also pertains to their retirement account, which is unusual for retirement accounts, they usually have higher balance requirements.
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You can buy fractional shares If you don’t have enough for a full share, you can buy a portfolio of it, giving you more options.
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PROs
A wide selection of investments – Stash has more than 2,000 investments to choose from. Don’t worry that you’ll get overwhelmed, they narrow it down by your risk tolerance and desired themes before presenting you with choices.
Plenty of education – Stash provides extensive education on their website that anyone can use, but is great for beginners.
There’s no minimum balance required - You can open an account with as little as $1 if you want. This also pertains to their retirement account, which is unusual for retirement accounts, they usually have higher balance requirements.
You can buy fractional shares If you don’t have enough for a full share, you can buy a portfolio of it, giving you more options.
CONs
The monthly fees can be a high percentage of assets under management if you don’t have a lot invested.
The ETF expense ratios are on the high side.
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Which is best? My Pick

If you’re looking for a robo-investor for beginners with little money, my choice is Acorns. I love that it provides you with different account options including taxable and retirement accounts but at an affordable rate.

If you’re a beginner that can’t pull the trigger to find money to invest, grabbing your spare change is the perfect start. Once you see how fast spare change adds up, you’ll likely find a way to invest more money on a regular basis. That’s what Acorns is all about – helping investors start somewhere. The earlier you start the better and Acorns gives you the push you need to see that you can do it. You just have to start.

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