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Auto Loan, Reviews

The Best Auto Loans: 2019 New & Used Car Loan Rates

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Disclosure : By clicking “See Offers” you’ll be directed to our parent company, LendingTree. You may or may not be matched with the specific lender you clicked on, but up to five different lenders based on your creditworthiness.

The best auto loan for you depends on your priorities, but two common goals are to get the most competitive rate and the lowest monthly payment. That’s why longer-term loans are so popular right now, with more people stretching out new and used car loans over 60 months or more. Despite that, new and used car payments hit an all-time high in 2017, meaning that people are spending more than ever on their vehicle purchases. That’s why MagnifyMoney has compiled a list of the best auto loans in 2019. We know that with rising rates, you need as much help as you can get finding the best rates to secure the vehicle you want and need.

Overview of the best auto loans in 2018

Company name

Best for

Loan types offered

 

LendingTree

Comparison shopping auto loan rates - LendingTree is not a lender.

New, used, refinance, lease-buyout

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

LendingTree is our parent company

LightStream

Car buyers with good or excellent credit

New, used, refinance, lease-buyout

APPLY NOW Secured

on Lightstream’s secure website

Capital One

Car buyers with fair or poor credit

New, used, refinance

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Carvana Auto Loan

Buying a used car online

Used

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

How we picked the best auto loan rates

Using information from LendingTree, we compiled auto loan data over a six month period spanning across 22 auto lenders. We analyzed the loan data by applicant credit tier, and whether the loans were to purchase a used or new car to determine 1) the lenders consumers chose most often, and 2) the lowest average APR offered by the lender.

A closer look at the best new and used auto loans

Start with LendingTree

With LendingTree, you can fill out one short online form, and there are dozens of lenders ready to compete for your business. Upon completing the form, you can see real interest rates and approval information instantly. Some auto lenders will do a hard pull on your credit and this is common with auto lending. It’s important to remember, multiple hard pulls will only count as one pull, so the best strategy is to have all your hard pulls done at one time.

LendingTree
APR

As low as
3.09%

Terms

24 To 84

months

Fees

Varies

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

LendingTree is our parent company

LendingTree is our parent company. LendingTree is unique in that they allow you to compare multiple, auto loan offers within minutes. Everything is done online. LendingTree is not a lender, but their service connects you with up to five offers from auto loan lenders based on your creditworthiness.

 

Where people with good credit (680+) get the lowest rates

LightStream

LightStream is the online consumer lending division of SunTrust Bank. LightStream seeks to make the online lending process easy, so you may apply, be approved, sign your loan agreement and receive your funds all through your computer or mobile device — no papers to fill out or sign.

Why we chose Lightstream
Out of the lenders compared, borrowers with good and excellent credit were most likely to choose a loan with LightStream and receive the lowest APR. You can read our full LightStream review here.

New auto loan product details

  • APR: See table below
  • Terms offered: 24 – 84months
  • Loan amounts: $5,000 - $100,000

Lightstream New Auto Loan APRs

Loan Amount

Loan Term (months) *

24 - 36

37 - 48

49 - 60

61 - 72

73 - 84

$5,000 to $9,999

5.24% - 6.79%

5.84% - 7.39%

6.29% - 7.84%

6.59% - 8.14%

6.79% - 8.34%

$10,000 to $24,999

3.99% - 5.99%

4.44% - 6.24%

4.69% - 6.49%

4.94% - 6.74%

5.14% - 6.94%

$25,000 to $49,999

4.44% - 5.99%

4.69% - 6.24%

4.94% - 6.49%

5.19% - 6.74%

5.39% - 6.94%

$50,000 to $100,000

4.44% - 5.99%

4.69% - 6.24%

4.94% - 6.49%

5.14% - 6.69%

5.29% - 6.84%

As of 2/04/19. Includes a 0.50 point discount for autopay. Exact rates depend on your credit profile.

Used auto loan product details

  • APR: See table below.
  • Terms offered: 24 – 72 months
  • Loan Amounts: $5,000 - $100,000

LightStream Used Auto Loan APRs

Loan Amount

Loan Term (months) *

24 - 36

37 - 48

49 - 60

61 - 72

73 - 84

$5,000 to $9,999

5.24% - 6.79%

5.84% - 7.39%

6.29% - 7.84%

6.59% - 8.14%

6.79% - 8.34%

$10,000 to $24,999

3.99% - 5.99%

4.44% - 6.24%

4.69% - 6.49%

4.94% - 6.74%

5.14% - 6.94%

$25,000 to $49,999

4.44% - 5.99%

4.69% - 6.24%

4.94% - 6.49%

5.19% - 6.74%

5.39% - 6.94%

$50,000 to $100,000

4.44% - 5.99%

4.69% - 6.24%

4.94% - 6.49%

5.14% - 6.49%

5.29% - 6.84%

As of 2/04/19. Includes a 0.50 point discount for autopay. Exact rates are dependent on your credit profile and for purchases made from dealer. 

What we like

  • Fixed rate, simple interest fully amortizing installment loans. This means you won’t pay interest on your interest, and if you follow the payment schedule, your loan will be fully paid off at the end of the term.
  • No fees or prepayment penalties
  • No restrictions on the vehicles year, make, model or mileage
  • If you’re not 100% satisfied, Lightstream will pay you $100 (conditions apply)

Where it may fall short

  • Loans may not be used for a cash-out refinance
  • Secured loans may not be used for commercial vehicles
  • Vehicle must be classified as automobile, sport-utility vehicle (SUV), light-duty truck, passenger or conversion van
  • No phone support for customer service. Everything is handled by email

How to apply
Before you apply, keep in mind that you’ll need to:

  • Have good credit
  • Have sufficient income and assets
  • Agree to electronic records and signatures

Applying is done entirely online. You’ll provide:

  • Personal information. Name, address, phone, Social Security number, driver’s license, etc.
  • Employment information. Employer name and address, income and other financial assets
  • Loan information. Loan purpose, loan amount and term
  • Security information. Create a username and password
LightStream

APPLY NOW Secured

on Lightstream’s secure website

Where people with fair (620-679) & bad credit (500-619) get the lowest rates

Capital One Auto Finance

Capital One is a Fortune 500 company and a trusted name in banking and other financial services. In the fourth quarter of 2017, Capital One originated $6.215 billion worth of auto loans, making it one of the top five U.S. banks offering auto loans.

Why we chose Capital One
The most borrowers with fair and bad credit chose a loan with Capital One, and it came in second in terms of lowest average APR.

New auto loan product details

  • APR: See table below
  • Terms offered: 36 – 72 months
  • Loan Amounts: $4,000 - $40,000

Capital One new auto loan APRs

Credit

Loan Term (months) *

36

48

60

72

Rebuilding

7.45%

7.99%

7.99%

10.35%

Average

4.68%

5.12%

5.12%

6.41%

Excellent

3.99%

3.99%

3.99%

3.99%

As of 2/04/19

Used auto loan product details

  • APR: See table below
  • Terms offered: 36 – 72 months
  • Loan Amounts: $4,000 - $40,000

Capital One used auto loan APRs

Credit

Loan Term (months) *

36

48

60

72

Rebuilding

10.02%

12.60%

12.60%

13.98%

Average

5.91%

7.51%

7.51%

9.08%

Excellent

4.70%

4.70%

4.70%

5.42%

As of 2/04/19

What we like

  • Easy to pre-qualify online without a hard inquiry on your credit
  • Minimum monthly income required is $1,500 or $1,800, depending on your credit
  • 12,000 auto dealers work with Capital One

Where it may fall short

  • The best rates require excellent credit with 20% down on the vehicle
  • Vehicles must be 2006 or newer
  • Vehicles must have less than 120,000 miles
  • Dealers may charge additional fees, including document fees, dealer preparation fees and delivery charges
  • Maximum loan amount may not cover the cost of the vehicle you desire

How to apply
Apply using Capital One’s Auto Navigator. Enter your personal information including your Social Security number to get pre-qualified for an auto loan without affecting your credit. Then take your financing certificate to the dealership to shop for cars and make a selection. Once you’ve selected a vehicle, the dealer will have you fill out a credit application and you’ll finalize the paperwork for your vehicle purchase with the dealer.

Capital One

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Carvana

Carvana specializes in helping you shop for a car online. It uses things such as 360-degree photos, free vehicle history reports, details and specs, ratings and reviews to provide you with the maximum amount of information.

Why we chose them
We looked at the three used auto lenders chosen most often in each credit tier, and Carvana was the only lender in the top three in every tier. That’s why we chose Carvana, even though other lenders offered lower average APRs on used auto loans.

Product details – Used auto loans only

  • APR: APR depends on credit history, vehicle type and down payment.
  • Terms offered: Up to 72 months.
  • Minimum loan amount: None
  • Maximum loan amount: Any amount, as long as it’s a vehicle listed on the Carvana website.

What we like

  • High level of detail on vehicles makes online shopping easy
  • Online application personalizes your shopping experience and doesn’t require a hard pull on your credit
  • You can return the vehicle within seven days and get your money back (Make sure you’re familiar with the limits on this policy before you buy)
  • All vehicles are certified with a 150-point inspection

Where it may fall short

  • Only available for used vehicles
  • Carvana is a car dealership, and you must select a vehicle through their website

Online experience
Carvana provides a lot of information about each vehicle. You won’t have to visit other sites to find specs or read reviews

When you fill out the online application, you’ll see a breakdown of your monthly payment, minimum required down payment and your APR, making your shopping experience truly personalized.
How to apply
You may get pre-qualified with Carvana without a hard pull on your credit by filling out the online application. After you complete it, you may start shopping for a used vehicle, and your payment, down payment and APR will be displayed for each vehicle. Keep in mind, with Carvana, you must purchase a vehicle in their inventory.

Carvana

SEE OFFERS Secured

on LendingTree’s secure website

Understanding the auto loans process

How do auto loans work?

For the lenders we detailed above, you may apply for a loan online and receive personalized loan rates without a hard pull to your credit. So while you don’t see rate tables on certain lender websites, don’t be discouraged. If you’re serious, just fill out an application to see what you may qualify for.

Once you’ve completed the initial application, you’ll be able to shop for a vehicle knowing which type of financing you’ll likely qualify for.

Once you’ve selected a vehicle, you’ll need to submit a full application for the loan. This can be done online or with a dealer, if you’re working with one. Once again, most lenders are streamlining this process online, so for the lenders we discussed on this page, you may upload your documents using a computer or mobile device.

Once you’ve purchased the vehicle and completed your loan documents, you’ll just need to make payments. Making payments has moved online as well, and many lenders offer apps to help you manage your payments and loan information using your mobile device.

Tips when shopping for car loans

Here are some tips to help you avoid common mistakes and shop confidently for a car loan.

  • Set a budget. Everyone says it, but it’s not always easy to do. If you aren’t keeping a budget, here’s how to start in four easy steps.
  • Know how much you can afford. MagnifyMoney suggests you keep your total car expense less than 10% of your monthly budget. This is part of the 20/4/10 rule, which also says you should put down at least 20% and choose a maximum loan term of four years.
  • Save for a down payment. The amount of your down payment is likely to affect the interest rate you receive when financing your vehicle. So saving for a larger payment will help save you money and putting more down will lower your monthly payment, too.
  • Check your credit. You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every 12 months, and it’s easy to get your free credit score from a variety of sources.
  • Consider a co-signer. If your credit score is low or you have a limited credit history that needs improvement, having a co-signer with good credit on your auto loan could significantly lower your interest rate.
  • Shop around. It’s smart to get multiple rate quotes, so you may compare loans.
  • Get pre-approved. Shopping for a vehicle doesn’t make a lot of sense if you don’t know how much money you’ll have to work with. Shoppers have many options for getting auto loan quotes without a hard inquiry on their credit, but if you’re serious about buying a car, doing all your loan shopping in a short period of time will minimize the potential impact on your credit score, if loan applications result in a hard pull.
  • Talk to local credit unions. While banks and online auto loan companies offer easy-to-use online tools, don’t forget to talk to your local credit union to see if it has a more competitive rate.
  • Beware of extra fees. Keep in mind you’ll need to pay state taxes and title fees. In addition, dealers may charge fees, including document fees, dealer preparation fees and delivery charges. These fees will affect your APR if you finance them into your loan.
  • Check your paperwork. Everyone makes mistakes. When you get the final copy of your auto loan, check to make sure you got everything you were promised and there are no extra fees.

How to apply for an auto loan

From choosing the right car to getting approved for financing, this article will walk you through the complete online car buying process.

When you apply for an auto loan, it will help to have your documentation ready. This will include proof of identity, proof of income, credit and banking history and proof of residence. If you’ve selected a vehicle, you also want that information, including VIN, mileage, year, make and model.

While many online lenders advertise the loan process as being quick, be prepared for roadblocks. Sometimes a lender may request additional information or take time to verify information, and that may delay the process.

Be proactive! Once you’ve started the auto loan process, the lender will walk you through what’s needed. But that doesn’t mean you have to wait for your lender to get back to you. If the loan process has stalled, make a call or send an email to your lender asking what’s needed. In many cases, you’ll have an online login that will allow you to see your loan status, or take the next step online.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Ralph Miller
Ralph Miller |

Ralph Miller is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Ralph here

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Reviews

Review of Netspend Prepaid Card

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

If you cannot get a traditional bank account, you may have few options but to manage your money via a prepaid card. That’s where companies like Netspend come in. Netspend issues prepaid cards which allow you to receive your paycheck, government benefits and tax refunds via direct deposit. You can also use Netspend to pay bills, conduct financial transactions online, track your spending automatically via Netspend’s app and complete most other tasks you would be able to with a traditional checking account. In this review, we’ll explain what Netspend has to offer, fees and fine print and how it compares to other prepaid options out there.

Netspend Prepaid Card features

Your name is embossed on your card. If a cashier ever asks you for an ID to match to your card, but your card says “Valued Customer” or something of the like on it in lieu of your name, you could be denied the purchase. It would also prevent you from receiving funds via MoneyPak, and could cause other disruptions in your financial life. The fact that the Netspend Prepaid Card has your name printed on it alleviates a lot of friction.

Free direct deposit. If you want to receive your paycheck, government benefits or tax refund on your Netspend card, you can do so at no cost.

You will also be able to use the app to send money to anyone with Netspend FlashPay. While the app does offer mobile check deposit, there may be fees charged by the service provider Netspend partners with in order to enable this feature. That being said, Netspend does not charge any fees for this service directly.

Cashback rewards. Netspend issues these rewards when your spending lines up with sponsored offers, which are preselected for you based on your spending habits.

NetSpend also has a refer-a-friend feature which rewards you both with a $20 when your friend uses your referral link to open a new card and loads at least $40 onto it.

High-yield savings account. As long as you’re not currently subject to IRS backup withholding, another perk Netspend offers is access to a savings account with an APY of 5.00% for balances under $1,000. This can be a huge perk for those who are having trouble opening a bank account as it could potentially establish a more positive banking history. Beyond that, the APY is phenomenal.

Netspend Prepaid Card fees and fine print

Monthly fees range from $5 to $9.95 per month. Although the Netspend Prepaid Card comes with a lot of benefits, it comes with a lot of fees, too. Different plans will incur different monthly fees. For example, the FeeAdvantage Plan, which allows you to circumvent a $1 charge for every purchase requiring a signature and a $2 fee for every purchase requiring a PIN, will run you $9.95/month. If you have a regular direct deposit of at least $500/month set up, you qualify for the Netspend Premier FeeAdvantage Plan, which does the same thing at a much lower price point of $5/month.

Reload fees can sting. While there are no activation fees or check deposit fees charged by Netspend, you will have to contend with reload fees everytime you want to put cash on your card.

Lots of miscellaneous fees. There are fees if your purchase is declined, fees if you want to stop a pre-authorized payment, ATM fees, foreign transaction fees and account inactivity fees should you let your account sit for 90+ days without any transactions, withdrawals or deposits.

Checking your balance via text, email or your online account center is free. However, checking via ATM or a customer service agent will incur a $0.50 fee. You will also be charged this fee if you make a balance inquiry via the automated telephone service, though the $0.50 fee is waived in this instance if you have a Netspend Premier FeeAdvantage Plan.

Overdraft protection plan is limited. While you can opt into overdraft protection to protect yourself from declined purchase fees, you will have to go through the steps of enrollment in the program first. You will only be allowed three overdrafts per calendar month, and each one will cost you $15. Unless you’re getting your purchases declined 15 times or more per month, this service may not be worth it.

Try not to lose your card. If you lose your card, there is a $9.95 fee to replace it. If you need your replacement card within less than seven business days, you will have to pay $20 to $25 in shipping costs depending on how quickly you need it.

NetSpend Prepaid Card Fees
Activation feeNone
Monthly Plan FeePay-As-You-Go Plan: None; FeeAdvantage Plan: $9.95/month; Netspend Premier FeeAdvantage Plan: $5/month
Reload feeVaries depending on location and deposit type.
Check deposit feeNone
ATM fees$2.50 at domestic ATMs; $4.95 at foreign ATMS
ATM decline fee$1.00
Foreign transaction fee3.5% of withdrawal or purchase in USD, in addition to the $4.95 foreign ATM fee
Account-to-account transfer fee$4.95 when initiated by customer service representative
Bill payment feeVaries
Stop payment fee for ACH debit/preauthorized payment transactions$10
ACH debit/Preauthorized payment transaction decline fee$1
Card replacement fee$9.95
Balance inquiry fee$0.00 to $0.50 depending on plan and modality of deposit.
Account inactivity fee$5.95/month after your account has been inactive for 90 days

Using the Netspend Prepaid Card mobile app

Netspend’s mobile app allows you to deposit checks via mobile, send or receive money from anyone with Netspend’s FlashPay and find the lowest-cost reload locations near you.

If you’re looking for the more advanced budgeting features some financial institutions offer to their mobile users, you’re out of luck. But you will still be able to monitor your account balance and transaction history.

Opening a Netspend Prepaid Card Account

Ordering a card is easy and can be done online You simply provide your name, address and email and your card will be shipped to you in 7-10 days.

However, in order to activate your card, you’ll have to meet some eligibility requirements. First, you must be 18 years of age and not live in Vermont. You will also be required to verify your identification by supplying your name, address, date of birth and government-issued ID number. In some cases, Netspend will require you to provide your actual ID in order to verify your identity.

Your credit history and checking history will not be run as a part of the application process.

Overall review of Netspend Prepaid Card Account

There is no way around it: Netspend Prepaid Cards are loaded with fees that will eat into your paycheck or any other source of income. If you can get a traditional checking account, you should as it is extremely likely that it will be leagues cheaper to manage your money.

However, Netspend isn’t built for those who can easily get a bank account. It is built for those who have been shut out of the traditional financial system. If you need a way to get your money into digital form to conduct financial transactions, cards like Netspend’s can be one of the few ways to take care of business, despite the dramatic fees. A better option would be to find a prepaid card option with lower fees, like Walmart’s Bluebird by American Express Prepaid Debit Card or the Chase Liquid Prepaid Card.

Do note that if your employer offers to pay you via a prepaid card, you do not have to accept. Specific laws vary by state, but regardless of where you live, your employer must give you the option of either a paper check or direct deposit. If you have access to a bank account, it’s likely not to your advantage to accept your paycheck via prepaid card. If you don’t, you may still choose to use cash checking services if they end up being cheaper than the fees on a card like Netspend’s Prepaid Card.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Brynne Conroy
Brynne Conroy |

Brynne Conroy is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brynne here

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Reviews

Acorns Spend Review

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Acorns Spend is the third product offered by popular micro-investing tool Acorns. Spend is a checking account integrated with the firm’s two existing products, Acorns Core and Acorns Later. Combined, the three products are designed to get people saving and investing on an automatic basis.

Acorns Spend has all the features of a traditional checking account, including a debit card and ATM access. The Acorns twist is that purchases made using the account are rounded up to the nearest dollar, with the excess money being invested in six different exchange-traded funds, or ETFs.

When you pay the $3 monthly fee for Acorns Spend, you’re automatically enrolled in Acorns Core and Acorns Later, although you’re not required to fund or use these products.

If you’re curious about Acorns Spend, we’ll take a look at the features and benefits of the account, along with its associated fees and drawbacks to see if its a good fit for you.

Account features

No minimum balance or overdraft fees. You don’t have to fund an Acorns Spend account to open it, and you don’t have to worry about ever overdrawing the account.

Includes Acorns Core and Acorns Laterfor no additional fee. Although some online checking accounts don’t charge a monthly fee at all, the Acorns Spend account is part of a financial universe that rounds up your money and invests it for you; the $3 monthly fee also includes IRA services through the Acorns Later program.

Unlimited free or reimbursed ATM withdrawals nationwide. With out-of-network ATM fees often topping $2.50, unlimited fee reimbursements alone may make the $3 monthly charge for Acorns Spend a bargain.

A host of mobile banking services. The account includes free bank-to-bank transfers, digital direct deposit, mobile check deposit, and check sending.

Found Money rewards program. When you shop with specific merchants, they will credit your Acorns account with rewards cash within 90 to 120 days after your purchase.

Integrated with the Acorns ecosystem. Acorns Core already has over 3 million customers, meaning its being used by lots of people. Acorns Spend is an easy add-on service for those already familiar with how Acorns works.

Money invested according to Modern Portfolio Theory.Your spare change is invested in one of five ETF-based portfolios that Acorns has developed in line with Modern Portfolio Theory, which aims to generate the highest possible returns with the lowest possible risk.

Fees and fine print

Acorns is pretty transparent when it comes to its fees and pricing structure. With no overdraft, ATM or minimum balance fees, your monthly service charge is the only fee you’ll have to worry about. This account is the most expensive product available from Acorns, but the fee remains modest.

Pricing

The original Acorns product, now named Acorns Core, charges $1 per month. If you add on the IRA services of Acorns Later, that fee jumps to $2. Acorns Spend, which includes all three products, is $3 per month.

There are a few small twists in the pricing structure. Students do not have to pay the $1 fee for using Acorns Core, so they can access the complete Acorns Core + Acorns Later + Acorns Spend package for just $2. If you’re a millionaire, the fee structure jumps quite a bit, with Acorns charging $100 per million invested.

Other fees and fine print

Although fees for this account are low, they are flat; this means that customers with lower balances can see a significant percentage of their balances eaten away by the monthly fee. For example, if you have just $100 invested via Acorns Spend, the $3 monthly fee amounts to 3% of your balance every month.

ATM fees$0, with unlimited nationwide reimbursements of any non-preferred ATM fees
Withdrawal limits$500 per day
Overdraft fees$0
Card replacement fee$0

Pros and cons

The main pro of the Acorns Spend account is that it “forces” you to save and invest. Like the Acorns Core account, your purchases using the Spend debit card are rounded up and placed into an investment portfolio matching your investment objectives and risk tolerance. The idea behind Acorns Spend – and indeed, the entire Acorns investment philosophy – is that while you’re not likely to miss the additional $0.23 you’ll be charged on your $3.77 cup of coffee, over time, those $0.23 deposits add up.

Another prime benefit of Acorns Spend is its low cost. Yes, there’s a $3 monthly fee, but you are getting a lot for that cost. While some checking accounts charge fees just to provide basic services, the account automatically invests your money for you; not only that, but Acorns Spend invests your money for you in small increments. When was the last time you called your broker and asked him to buy $0.23 of an ETF? At most firms, that’s not even possible, and if it is, commissions will likely eat a large portion of your investment.

The unlimited domestic ATM fee reimbursement is another significant feature of the Acorns Spend account. Although some firms, such as Charles Schwab, offer unlimited international ATM fee reimbursements, many banks charge their own additional fees for out-of-network ATM transactions, on top of the fees that are imposed by ATM operators themselves.

There aren’t a lot of obvious “cons” to this account; ironically, the same features that are “pros” for many customers can end up being “cons” for others.

For example, some customers may not enjoy the “forced savings” method that Acorns employs; these customers may prefer to choose their own investments and may not like the portfolios that Acorns creates for customers. After all, Acorns only has five investment options, and they are categorized generically as “Conservative,” “Moderately Conservative,” “Moderate,” “Moderately Aggressive,” and “Aggressive” — and all five portfolios use the same six ETFs, in varying measure.

Another “pro” that may end up being a “con” for some customers is the $3 monthly fee. For those integrated into the Acorns ecosystem, paying this fee makes sense. For those that aren’t interested in the Acorns investment philosophy, or for those who don’t make a lot of reimbursable ATM transactions, the $3 fee could outweigh the benefits, especially when considering that plenty of online banks, from Discover to Capital One, offer no-fee checking accounts.

Overall, this account is a bit different than some of its major competitors, such as the PayPal Prepaid Mastercard® and the Venmo debit card.

The Acorns Spend account is primarily focused on saving and investing, with round-ups automatically finding their way to predetermined investment portfolios. The Venmo and PayPal cards, on the other hand, are primarily focused on money transfer/access to and from Venmo and PayPal accounts, respectively, although they also operate as debit cards for purchases.

The Acorns Spend account has another advantage over these cards in that it is a fully functioning checking account, rather than just a money transfer or investment portal.

However, things are changing a bit in the competitive landscape, and PayPal and Acorns have recently formed a financial partnership. Now, you can use your PayPal account to open an Acorns account and begin funding your investments, starting with as little as $5.

How to open an Acorns Spend account

Log in to your existing Acorns account. The fastest way to sign up for Acorns Spend is if you are already an Acorns customer. If you log in to your account, you can pre-order the Acorns Spend debit card in a few clicks. The first 100,000 Acorns Spend debit cards sold out in four days, but the company is still accepting pre-orders for additional cards as of February 8, 2019.
Open an Acorns account online. If you’re not already a customer, you’ll have to sign up for an Acorns account to access Acorns Spend. You can access the application at this link. Once there, click “Don’t Have an Account?” You’ll need to provide your email address and create a password to open an account.

To finish opening your account, you’ll need to connect your spending cards, such as your debit and credit cards, so that Acorns can set up the “round-up” portion of the process. Next, you’ll provide personal information, such as your address and Social Security number. The last step of the process is to choose your investment allocation.

Overall review of Acorns Spend

Acorns Spend was a smart idea for Acorns itself because it’s something of a no-brainer for its existing three million-plus strong customer base. For those that already have Acorns Core and Acorns Later, Acorns Spend is just an additional $1 per month, and it provides access to a feature-packed checking account. For existing customers, Acorns Spend is another easy way to keep rounding up purchases into an investment account.

For potentially new customers, whether or not to switch from an existing checking account to Acorns Spend is an open question. On the plus side, Acorns Spend combines the key benefits of the best online checking accounts, such as mobile check deposit and no minimum deposit requirements, to the low fee structure most customers want, with no ATM fees, overdraft fees or card replacement fees.

One of the few outright negatives of the Acorns Spend account is the $3 monthly fee; although it’s lower than what many traditional, national banks charge, it’s $36 more per year than the $0 charged by many online banks.

For many customers, the unlimited ATM fee rebates will more than compensate for the monthly fee. However, for customers that have limited a need for out-of-network ATM withdrawals, or for those that aren’t interested in the Acorns ecosystem, this may not be the right product for them.

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John Csiszar
John Csiszar |

John Csiszar is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email John here

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