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Updated on Thursday, October 1, 2020
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.
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.
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|
|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.
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.