Stash vs. Acorns: Which Robo-Advisor Is Best for You?

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Updated on Thursday, June 27, 2019

Stash and Acorns are both great robo-advisor options for entry-level investors. Both apps offer just enough functionality for someone without a lot of cash to put away and who might need simplified investment options and a little guidance. They allow beginners to get into the game with a small opening deposit, and both offer straightforward fee structures and some financial education.That said, Stash and Acorns aren’t identical, and they differ greatly in the range of investment options available. The best robo-advisor choice depends on your needs and personal preferences. Let’s figure out whether Stash or Acorns fits your needs.

Stash vs. Acorns: Feature comparison

Stash works like a traditional investment account, helping you to build a portfolio of exchange-traded funds and individual stocks. The app asks new users a series of questions to gauge their financial situation, financial goals and risk tolerance, then suggests stocks and ETFs that meet their needs. You get to choose which ETFs and stocks to include in your portfolio, and the app’s Stash Coach feature guides your choices.

Portfolio overview screenshots for Stash and Acorns

Acorns takes a hybrid approach that combines automatic savings with investing, and the process is much more hands-off than with Stash. You begin by linking your checking account and credit cards with the Acorns app, which then tracks your spending and rounds up all purchases to the nearest dollar, placing the difference into your account. Once you have at least $5 saved, it automatically invests in ETFs. In addition to this round-up function, you can also schedule recurring deposits as small as $5 into your Acorns account on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Both Acorns and Stash let users put money into various tax-deferred individual retirement accounts (IRAs), in addition to their basic taxable investment accounts. Acorns also offers a checking account, called Acorns Spend. It features unlimited free or reimbursed ATM withdrawals nationwide, free ACH transfers, direct deposit, and mobile check deposits.

Stash Acorns
Management fee
  • $1 per month for accounts with less than $5,000 deposited
  • 0.25% % annual fee for accounts with $5,000 or more deposited
  • $2 per month for retirement accounts, or 0.25% annual fee for retirement accounts with $10,000 or more deposited
  • $1/month for basic Acorns functionality
  • $3/month for basic Acorns + IRA account
  • $5/month for basic Acorns + IRA account + Acorns checking account
Average ETF expense ratio 0.29% 0.03% – 0.15%
Account minimum $5 $0, although your Round-Ups or one-time investments must be at least $5
Human advisors Access to customer service via phone and email Customer service via email only
Fractional shares Yes Yes
Tax loss harvesting
College savings options Yes No
Investment account types
  • Individual taxable
  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • Individual taxable
  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
Savings account option No No
Ease of use

Stash vs. Acorns: Management fees

As management fees go, the structure for both companies is pretty simple, however Stash gets more expensive as your balance grows, while Acorns fixed cost becomes less expensive as your balance grows. Both Stash and Acorns charge $1 a month for basic services. Once you’ve built up an account balance of $5,000 or more with Stash, the management fee switches to 0.25% of your total account balance.

Both robo-advisors charge extra fees for additional features. Adding IRA retirement accounts costs you $2 a month with Stash, or 0.25% of the retirement account balance once it’s above $10,000. Acorns charges $3 a month for it’s basic service plus IRA accounts. If you add the Acorn Spend checking account, Acorns charges $5 a month

Here’s how total management fees compare for different balances utilizing only the basic taxable-account investing component of each app:

Account BalanceAnnual Cost for StashAnnual Cost for Acorns

$12 or 2.4%

$12 or 2.4%


$12 or 1.2%

$12 or 1.2%


$12.50 or 0.25%

$12 or 0.24%


$25 or 0.25%

$12 or 0.12%


$62.50 or 0.25%

$12 or 0.05%


$125 or 0.25%

$12 or 0.02%

And here’s how those fees compare if you opened a retirement account at Stash or used all three of Acorns’ offerings (investing account, retirement account, and checking account):

Account BalanceAnnual Cost of Retirement Account Only at StashAnnual Cost for Investing and Retirement Account at AcornsAnnual Cost for Investing, Retirement and Checking Account at Acorns
$500$24 or 4.8%$24 or 4.8%$36 or 7.2%
$1,000$24 or 2.4%$24 or 2.4%$36 or 3.6%
$5,000$24 or 0.48%$24 or 0.48%$36 or 0.72%
$10,000$25 or 0.25%$24 or 0.24%$36 or 0.36%
$25,000$62.50 or 0.25%$24 or 0.10%$36 or 0.14%
$50,000$125 or 0.25%$24 or 0.05%$36 or 0.07%

Management fees aren’t the only expense. Investments have their own expense ratios — the amount charged by third party companies to manage ETFs in which the apps invest your money. Although Stash offers a number of stocks and low-cost ETFs, the average ETF expense ratio is 0.29%, which is a little high for the category. Acorns, on the other hand, offers ETFs expense ratios that range from 0.03% to 0.15%.

Stash vs. Acorns: Special features

Both of these robo-advisors offer solid features and low startup requirements. For tax-deferred retirement accounts, both Stash and Acorns offer traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. Acorns has the advantage of offering an SEP IRA for the self-employed, which Stash doesn’t offer. Stash, on the other hand, offers custodial UTMA and UGMA accounts for college savings, but parents looking for a 529 account will have to go elsewhere.

There are some differences when it comes to style. While both advisors encourage easing into investing with small amounts of money, Stash suggests setting up auto deposits (what it calls “Auto-Stash”) where you add small amounts on a regular schedule to grow your account over time. Acorns, on the other hand, highlights round-ups, but if you’re only depositing your spare change, it will take a long time to build a substantial balance.

There are also differences in how many investment choices you have. Stash offers nearly 200 single stocks to choose from and dozens of ETF combinations, while Acorns offers only five ETF-based portfolios that range from conservative to aggressive.

Stash’s advantages

  • There are several ways to reach a human. Stash offers customer service via phone and email, so you can always reach out to a customer service rep with your queries. And Stash’s Questions page can field basic inquiries on a wide array of topics.
  • There are great opportunities for learning. For the rookie investor, Stash’s website features Learning Guides on things like budgeting, retirement planning and basic investing concepts.
  • You have more investing options. Stash offers the ability to put as little as $5 into stocks of companies you know (3M, Adobe, Facebook, etc.) and/or to invest in one of their dozens of themed ETF baskets, which sport names like “Real Estate Tycoon” and “Foreign Heavyweights.”
  • Retirement investing is free for young 20-somethings. Stash offers free retirement investing for anyone under age 25.

Acorns’ Advantages

  • You can earn bonus cash. Acorns offers a feature called Found Money, in which 200+ retail partners invest a percentage of your purchase in your Acorns account when you shop with them. Examples include Barnes & Noble, Lyft, Groupon and Sephora.
  • It’s free for college students. The earlier you invest, the better off you’ll be, so it’s great that Acorns offers its Acorns Core services to college students at no charge.
  • Savings are automated. If you connect all your credit cards to Acorns, you’ll be saving spare change with every purchase, no matter what. For people without a lot of discipline for savings — or who feel that they can’t afford to put any money away — this is a low-key way to sock some dollars into a safe place.

Stash vs. Acorns: Which is best for you?

Both of these robo-advisors are reasonable options for the novice investor, but they’ll appeal to different people. Stash is a good option for someone who has a small amount to invest and who’d like to steer their portfolio a bit by choosing some stocks and ETF combinations from Stash’s offerings.

Acorns is also a good choice for the small-cash investor, but better for someone who doesn’t mind being limited to the five portfolios the advisor offers based on risk tolerance, and who may feel they don’t have the discipline to save and invest. That said, the fees on small-balance portfolios could eat into your earnings over time, since they’re a disproportionately large percentage of the total. If you save up a substantial sum at either advisor, you may be better off moving to another robo-advisor with lower fees and more account options.

The “Find a Financial Advisor” links contained in this article will direct you to webpages devoted to MagnifyMoney Advisor (“MMA”). After completing a brief questionnaire, you will be matched with certain financial advisers who participate in MMA’s referral program, which may or may not include the investment advisers discussed.