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Reviews

Acorns Spend Review

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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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.

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.

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Reviews

BrioDirect High-Yield Savings and CDs Review

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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BrioDirect is an online brand of Sterling National Bank, a brick-and-mortar bank based out of New York. By being online-only, BrioDirect is able to reduce its costs and potentially offer better deals for its customers. BrioDirect does not offer all the Sterling bank account types though, and only has two products: a high-yield savings account and CDs. Both accounts pay out respectable interest rates — especially compared with the returns at large national banks.

Our BrioDirect bank review covers the product details, along with the pros and cons, so you can decide if BrioDirect is the right place for your money.

BrioDirect High-Yield Savings account

APY

Minimum opening deposit

Monthly fee

1.25%$25None

Between a competitive interest rate, a low opening deposit requirement and minimal fees, the BrioDirect savings account is an excellent choice. However, it’s not the most accessible account, as it doesn’t come with a debit card and you can only take out money through bank transfers.

Rates

The Brio Direct savings account pays an excellent interest rate, competitive with the best online savings accounts on the market today. This high rate applies to all balances, large and small. You won’t earn more by depositing more but the upside is that even small accounts can earn a high rate. The only requirement is that you need to keep a balance of at least $25 in your account to earn interest.

Fees and minimums

The minimum opening deposit requirement for a Brio Direct high yield savings account is just $25. This account does not charge a monthly maintenance fee. If your balance falls below $25, you stop earning interest but there is no charge.

If you overdraft the account, BrioDirect charges $35 per overdraft/insufficient funds transaction. Since this is a savings account, you are limited to six withdrawals per statement cycle under the rules of Federal Regulation D. If you make more than six transactions, you will be charged $10 per excess transaction.

Transfers and limits

To deposit money into a BrioDirect Savings account, you can set up an ACH transfer from another bank account, send a check or make a wire transfer. Once your account is open, you can withdraw funds to another bank account by using the Sterling National Bank online banking portal or by calling the bank’s customer service hotline.

Since this is a savings account, you will face a $10 charge per excess transaction beyond the six withdrawals allowed per statement cycle mentioned above.

FDIC insurance

Considering BrioDirect is part of Sterling National Bank, you may be wondering whether Sterling Bank is FDIC-insured and if that applies to BrioDirect. The answer is yes, accounts at both organizations are insured by the FDIC to protect your deposits.

One point to keep in mind is that the FDIC maximum insurance limit applies to your combined account balances from both organizations. Now, since the FDIC limit is $250,000 per individual at an institution, this won’t be a problem unless you plan on having a six-figure balance. But if you do, make sure that your account balance combined at both organizations does not go over the FDIC limit.

Account accessibility

BrioDirect’s saving account offers online access through its website and mobile app. With these tools, you can check your balance and transfer funds to other accounts, like to a Sterling Bank savings account. However, Brio Direct Bank does not offer a debit card for ATM access. If you want to make a cash withdrawal, you’ll need to transfer money to another account first.

You also cannot service your account in person at a Sterling National Bank branch. For help, you need to either handle things online or by calling the customer service line.

BrioDirect High-Yield CDs

BrioDirect has a solid variety of short- and long-term CDs. The Brio CD rates are mostly competitive, especially compared with those at national banks, but they don’t quite match the very best online offers.

Rates and terms

Term

APY

30 day0.05%
3 month1.00%
5 month1.15%
9 month0.80%
12 month1.00%
18 month1.00%
24 month1.00%
30 month1.00%
36 month1.00%
48 month1.00%
60 month1.00%

The BrioDirect CDs come in terms ranging as short as 30 days to as long as five years. They are all traditional, fixed-rate CDs. They do not offer specialty products, like a bump-up CD that lets you increase the interest rate partway through the term.

The Brio Bank CD rates are mostly decent, except for their 30-day term, which is very low. However, while the Brio CD rates are respectable, you could potentially find even better rates with some of the best online CDs on the market today.

Minimum opening deposit

You must deposit at least $500 to open one of the BrioDirect CDs. It’s the same minimum opening deposit for any of the CD terms. If you make an early withdrawal and your balance falls below $500 for more than 20 days, the bank could close your account.

Early withdrawal penalties

You can withdraw your interest out of a BrioDirect CD before the end of the term without owing a penalty, though it will reduce your total earnings below the quoted APY. If you try to withdraw any of your deposit before your CD matures, BrioDirect will charge an early withdrawal penalty. The penalty depends on your CD term:

CD term

Penalty

Terms of 30 days or less30 days’ interest
Terms of 12 months or less90 days’ interest
Terms of 18 months or more but less than 60 months9 months’ interest
Terms of 60 months or more12 months’ interest

BrioDirect will charge the interest penalty even if it’s more than what you’ve earned. In other words, the bank could deduct the penalty from your initial deposit.

FDIC insurance

The BrioDirect CDs are also covered by FDIC insurance. However, since BrioDirect is part of Sterling National Bank, the limit applies to your deposit accounts at both institutions. FDIC insurance goes up to $250,000 per individual per bank. So long as your total balance in CDs and other deposit accounts at both organizations is below $250,000, you’re fully covered by FDIC insurance.

BrioDirect pros and cons

Pros

  • Competitive interest rates: The Brio Direct high yield savings rate is one of the highest on the market today, and is competitive even with the best online accounts. While the bank’s CD rates aren’t quite as high, they are still respectable for most terms.
  • Low deposit requirements: It only takes $25 to open a BrioDirect Savings account and $500 to open a CD, which is lower than the typical large lender. The bank’s accounts can be a good choice for customers with smaller balances.
  • Minimal fees on the savings account: The BrioDirect savings account does not charge a monthly maintenance fee. If your balance falls below $25, all that happens is you stop earning interest.

Cons

  • Lack of ATM access: The BrioDirect savings account does not come with a debit card. To withdraw cash, you’ll have to transfer funds to another account first, so your money is not immediately accessible.
  • Costly CD early withdrawal penalties: All the BrioDirect CDs charge early withdrawal penalties and they can be fairly steep, up to a full year of interest. BrioDirect does not let you withdraw any of your deposit without charging the penalty so make sure you can commit to the full term before signing on.
  • No in-person customer support: Since BrioDirect is an online bank, you can only get support through the website or over the phone. Even though BrioDirect is part of Sterling National Bank, you can’t visit a branch for in-person support.

How to open a BrioDirect Bank account

To open a BrioDirect Bank account, you apply through the bank’s website. You’ll need to provide your name, contact information, Social Security number and a form of ID like your passport, driver’s license or State ID. Since this is an online account, you can apply from anywhere in the United States.

You’ll need to make your opening deposit to complete the process of opening your account. BrioDirect suggests that you make the initial deposit by ACH transfer from an existing checking or savings account, but you can also deposit funds through wire transfer or by check. The bank’s website states it should only take a few minutes. Then, BrioDirect reviews the information to finish setting up your account.

Who is BrioDirect best for?

If you are comfortable with an online-only bank, BrioDirect could be an excellent choice. The bank’s high yield savings account is particularly impressive since there’s no monthly fee and the interest rate is competitive with nearly any account out there.

BrioDirect could also be a good fit for existing Sterling National Bank customers as they could manage both accounts through the same organization. If you’re on the fence about being a joint customer, this Sterling National Bank review can explain what the bank offers along with BrioDirect.

On the other hand, BrioDirect is not suitable for someone who needs fast and regular access to their money. Its savings account does not come with a debit card so to take money out, you need to make a transfer to another bank account, which takes time.

BrioDirect is also not a top choice for CDs. While its offers are decent, someone researching online could likely find a better offer. Finally, as an online-only bank, BrioDirect is not a good choice for someone who wants face-to-face customer service.

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.

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Auto Loan, Reviews

LightStream Auto Loan Review

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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Reviewed By

If you’re in the market for a quick, affordable and hassle-free way to finance your next car, a LightStream auto loan should definitely be on your radar. It’s particularly well-suited for deal-seekers with good credit who don’t mind working with an online company when it comes to financing their cars. If you’d rather work with a local company that can offer in-person support, however, you might want to skip this lender.

How LightStream auto loans work

LightStream offers a wide range of options for financing your next ride, including:

  • Purchase of a new or used car, either from a dealer or an individual
  • Auto loan refinance (except it does not refinance its own loans)
  • Auto lease buyouts
  • Loans for motorcycles, as well as boats and RVs
  • Classic car loans

Auto loans at a glance:

  • Starting APR range: 3.49%–9.49%
  • Fees: None
  • Loan amounts: $5,000–$100,000
  • Terms: 24–84 months
  • Credit requirements: Minimum 660 credit score
  • Mileage or vehicle restrictions: None

LightStream offers the same starting rate whether you’re buying a new or used car from a dealer, something you don’t see at other lenders. But keep in mind that the lowest rates go to those with the best credit who opt for the shortest loan terms possible and use autopay to make their car payments.

Satisfaction guarantee

If you see a lower rate elsewhere, LightStream will beat any verified offer with a rate that is .10 percentage points lower. It also promises a $100 guarantee within 30 days if you aren’t satisfied with your loan experience.

How to apply for a LightStream auto loan

The only way you can apply for a LightStream auto loan is through its online form. It is an online lender, after all, so you should be comfortable with handling your business details — including the loan application — online. You’ll need to:

  1. Acknowledge receipt of LightStream’s statement on the use of electronic records.
  2. Agree to receive electronic records.
  3. Agree to use electronic signatures to sign your loan documents.

You’ll also need to have a Visa or Mastercard credit card to apply, which LightStream uses during the verification process.

You will be asked to provide:

  • The purpose, term and amount of desired loan
  • Your name
  • Your address
  • Phone number
  • Social Security number
  • Employment information
  • Annual income
  • Total amount of assets and equity in your home

From there, LightStream may contact you for more details and documentation. If approved, you’ll need to sign your loan documents electronically and provide LightStream with your bank account details. The money will then be deposited into your bank account, which means you’ll need to pass it along to the seller, whether that’s a dealer or private seller. LightStream will not send the money to the seller directly.

It’s important to note that LightStream doesn’t offer any preapproval options, but if you apply and are approved for a loan, you are under no obligation to accept the loan.

How to qualify for the best rates

LightStream requires good credit at a minimum, but looks for excellent credit when giving the best rates. It defines excellent credit as:

  • Five or more years of significant credit history.
  • A credit history with a variety of account types such as major credit cards (for example, Visa, MasterCard, Amex), installment debt (vehicle loans) and mortgage debt if applicable.
  • An excellent payment history with no delinquencies or other problems repaying debt obligations.
  • A proven ability to save as shown by some or all of the following: liquid assets (stocks, bonds, bank deposits, etc.), cash down payments on real estate, retirement savings and little, if any, revolving credit card debt.
  • Stable and sufficient income and assets to easily repay current debt obligations and any new loan with LightStream.

Pros and cons of LightStream auto loans

LightStream offers the convenience of an online lender with the backing of a brick-and-mortar bank as the online arm of Truist, the bank created by the merger of  SunTrust Bank and BB&T. But it’s important to weigh all of your options carefully when choosing an auto loan. It’s one of the biggest purchases you’ll make, after all.

Pros

  • Wide variety of loans: New, used, refinance and lease buyouts loans are available on a wide range of vehicles. Unlike other lenders, LightStream doesn’t place restrictions on your vehicle’s age, make, model or mileage.
  • Decent rates: We’ve seen lower starting rates at credit unions, but you’ll have to meet membership requirements. LightStream has no membership requirements and provides the same starting rates for new and used vehicles as well as refinance loans.
  • No down payment required: LightStream finances up to 100% of the car’s cost. Of course, it’s always best to put down as much as you can afford on an auto loan. This will help you save money over the life of your loan and avoid becoming underwater on that loan.
  • Quick funding: If you complete the application process and are approved by 2:30 p.m. EST, you could receive funds the same day.
  • Good reviews: LightStream auto loan reviews are generally positive.

Cons

  • Good credit required: To qualify for a LightStream auto loan you’ll need a credit score of at least 660 or better.
  • No preapproval process: Unlike many lenders, you’ll have to complete a full application in order to see your rates and terms. Still, the process is fast, and if you complete your rate shopping within a certain time period, multiple applications should not impact your credit any more than a single application.
  • No face-to-face service: If you’re the type of person who likes to seal the deal with a handshake after signing the documents, you’ll want to stick with some place local.

LightStream vs. Capital One

If you’d like a bit more of a guided approach to the car-buying process,  Capital One’s Auto Navigator loan options might be better for you. Rather than sending you cash directly that you can use on whatever car you want to buy, Capital One’s Auto Navigator service lets you first get prequalified for financing, and then shows you which dealers in your area may offer based on the type of car you want to buy and the financing you can afford.

If any of the offerings pique your interest, you can then finish the application and buy the car. It’s still a good idea to compare the offer with other new and used car loan rates.

LightStream vs. Carvana

Carvana works similarly to Capital One Auto Navigator in that you can prequalify for financing and browse real cars in your area that you may then be able to buy. It’s important to remember that Carvana only sells used cars and its financing is only available on Carvana cars. But it is possible to finance here with poor credit — Carvana requires borrowers to be 18 years old, have no active bankruptcies on their credit report and earn at least $4,000 per year.

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.