There are several investment apps you can use for investing a few dollars at a time. Three of the most popular platforms for new and experienced investors are Acorns, Robinhood, and Stash.
Each service has different investment options and account amenities. This comparison of these popular micro-investing apps can help you choose the best platform for your investing goals and personal preferences.
These platforms can be a good way to start investing for the first time. Experienced investors may enjoy the micro-investing conveniences their full-time brokerage may not offer.
Table of Contents
- About Acorns
- About Robinhood
- About Stash
- Platform Fees
- Account Minimums
- Investment Options
- Research Tools
- Cash Management Accounts
- Unique Features
- What is the Best Investing App?
Acorns offers premade ETF portfolios with risk tolerance-based asset allocations of stocks and bonds with taxable, brokerage and custodial accounts. This platform doesn’t offer individual stocks.
Other notable features include an online checking account and an online shopping portal to earn bonus investing cash. It’s also possible to round up debit and credit card purchases to increase your investing frequency.
Read our full Acorns review to learn more about spare change investing.
Robinhood is the most similar of the three services to a traditional online brokerage and the only one not charging a monthly account fee. Investors can trade almost any stock or ETF on-demand with a $1 minimum investment.
Only taxable brokerage accounts are available but customers can open a cash management account that earns interest and offers over 75,000 surcharge-free ATMs.
Read our Robinhood review for an in-depth look.
It’s also possible to open an online banking account and a Stock-Back® Card1 that can earn stock rewards2 for well-known brands – like getting rewards at McDonald’s when you buy a Big Mac.
Two of the three platforms charge a monthly fee. More expensive plans offer more features, including retirement and custodial accounts.
Acorns has a fee structure similar to Stash with three monthly plans:
- Lite ($1/month): Taxable brokerage account and rewards shopping portal
- Personal ($3/month): Retirement account and online checking account
- Family ($5/month): Child custodian accounts
You will need to choose the Personal of Family plan to access the online checking account in addition to the retirement and custodial accounts. The entry-level Lite plan only offers a taxable investment account.
Robinhood doesn’t charge a monthly or annual fee for its brokerage account or cash management account.
Stock and ETF trades are free but there is a commission on options contracts.
There is also an optional Robinhood Gold account that costs $5 per month.
Gold benefits include:
- Morningstar research reports
- Level II market data
- Margin trading account
- Increased instant deposits
Stash offers two monthly plans:
- Growth ($3/month): Taxable account, Stock-Back Card1, banking account plus Retirement accounts, robo-advisor, personalized retirement advice
- Stash+ ($9/month): Custodial accounts, exclusive Stock-Back Card1 bonuses, premium research
The monthly fee can be a nuisance but there are no add-on commission fees to buy or sell stocks and ETFs.
If you decide to invest with Stash, the best monthly plan depends on which investment accounts you want. The retirement and child custodian accounts require a higher plan fee.
Springing for the Stash+ plan can be worth the upgrade if you regularly use the Stock-Back Card1 for local and online purchases. Stash+ users get 1% Stock-Back® Rewards3.
It’s possible to open a basic account with $0 with each brokerage. The monthly plan fees for Acorns start once your balance reaches $5.
There is always a $3 per month fee with Stash regardless of your balance.
Robinhood has a $1 minimum investment for buying stocks and funds. Options trades require purchasing at least 100 contracts.
All three platforms have different investment options.
Acorns only offers five different stock and bond index ETF portfolios. Each portfolio pursues a different risk strategy:
- Conservative (100% bonds)
- Moderately conservative (40% stocks and 60% bonds)
- Moderate (60% stocks and 40% bonds)
- Moderately aggressive (80% stocks and 20% bonds)
- Aggressive (100% stocks)
The platform rebalances the portfolio with each new investment. It’s possible to change portfolios as your investing goals transform.
Investors wanting a self-directed brokerage account should consider Stash or Robinhood to access stocks and ETFs of their choosing.
Robinhood offers most stocks and ETFs that trade on the US stock exchanges. Some exceptions can be OTC and ADR stocks with thin trading volumes and additional trading commissions.
Advanced investors can buy or sell options. A robo-advisor account isn’t available.
Stash lets investors buy most stocks and ETFs although it may not be possible to buy select stocks with low trading volumes or certain sector ETFs. But the investment selection is excellent for most investors.
It’s possible to browse stocks and funds by sector or investment theme.
The company also offers a Smart Portfolio robo-advisor with its middle and upper plans. This feature invests in stock and bond index funds proportional to the investor’s risk tolerance.
This platform can be the best option that want a portion of their portfolio in the managed Smart Portfolio and the rest in individual stocks and ETFs. Acorns only offers managed portfolios and Robinhood only provides self-directed accounts.
No platform offers in-depth research tools like a traditional online broker such as Fidelity, Schwab or Ally Invest. But investors can easily access basic information.
Acorns doesn’t provide any research tools as investors can only invest in premade portfolios. Investors can read the ETF prospectus for each fund in their portfolio to understand how the fund can make money along with the potential risks.
The basic Robinhood membership offers these research tools:
- Historical price chart
- Analyst ratings
- Quarterly earnings data
- Recent market headlines
The numerous investment options but scant research tools may have you wonder if Robinhood is safe. It is, but other platforms may have better practices.
Robinhood Gold customers can read Morningstar research reports that can help investors make informed decisions. Active traders may also appreciate the Level II market data to see how much investors are willing to buy or sell their shares for.
Stash provides a basic price chart and news headlines for stocks and ETFs.
The Stash+ plan provides a monthly market insights report that provides analysis on the stock market and specific sectors. Overall, free stock analysis tools can be more effective.
Cash Management Accounts
All three platforms offer an FDIC-insured cash management account or an online checking equivalent. Being able to bank and invest with the same app can be a valuable convenience.
Each service requires opening an investment account before launching a banking account. Consider an app’s investment features before their banking options to choose the best one.
The Acorns Checking account is only available with the two highest monthly plans. There are no additional fees and account features include:
- “Smart Deposit” automated savings rules
- Visa debit card
- 55,000+ fee-free ATMs (Allpoint network)
- Up to $250,000 in FDIC Insurance
The Smart Deposit savings feature can set aside a portion of each deposit to a savings goal. Doing so can prevent accidentally money you’ll need later.
You can also get free ATM withdrawals at over 55,000 locations across the United States and the world.
Another nifty feature is getting a tungsten metal debit card. It works like a traditional plastic card and can be an interesting conversation starter with friends.
The Robinhood cash management account is fee-free and can offer more banking perks than the other two apps.
Key account features include:
- 75,000+ fee-free ATMs (Allpoint and MoneyPass networks)
- Earn interest
- Online bill payments
- Up to $1.25 million FDIC Insurance
This account doesn’t charge any monthly service fees and comes with a Mastercard debit card. Two unique features include earning interest on the entire account balance and up to $1.25 million in FDIC Insurance.
Robinhood partners with several banks that each offer the $250,000 FDIC insurance limit by sweeping your uninvested cash to different institutions. Some of the partner banks include Goldman Sachs Bank, Citi®, HSBC Bank and Wells Fargo.
This account may not offer automated savings features or shopping rewards like Stash or Acorns but can be an exciting online banking option.
A Stash banking account1 is available with every monthly plan. All Stash personal investing account holders are eligible to open a Stash Banking account with no overdraft fees, maintenance fees, or monthly balance fees, and there is fee-free ATM access4.
Account features include:
- Automated savings tools
- Stock-Back® debit card1
- 55,000+ fee-free Allpoint ATMs4
- Receive direct deposit up to two days early5
- Banking services provided by Stride Bank, N.A., Member FDIC
Another automated feature is scheduling recurring investments.
All banking members can get a Stock-Back® debit card1. Switching to the Stock-Back® card can be worth it to earn back pieces of stock for stores you make purchases at. Stores without a publicly-traded stock can earn shares of an S&P 500 index fund.
It’s possible to earn passive income and park your uninvested cash into a rewards banking account. These unique perks can play a deciding factor in choose the best investing platform.
Acorns can be one of the best options for a fully automated investing app. It can also be easier to earn shopping rewards than Stash.
The Earn features give members several options to earn bonus cash to invest. One way is to activate shopping offers at over 350 partners in the Acorns app and paying with a linked debit card or credit card.
A second option is installing the Chrome browser extension to shop online at over 12,000 brands.
Acorns deposits the cash rewards into the investing account and invests the balance when it reaches $5.
Another neat feature is rounding up debit and credit purchases to the next dollar and investing the round-up amount. The platform invests the roundups with a $5 balance but the Acorns debit card can instantly invest the round-up amount.
Stash also offers this feature but only for its Stock-Back Card®1.
Users can also set auto-deposit rules that routinely deposit cash into their investing account from a linked bank account.
Robinhood gives investors more control of the investment process but doesn’t offer the shopping rewards to get free stock unless you refer friends.
Investors that don’t want to be restricted to certain trading windows will like Robinhood. It’s possible to place market-type orders during normal market hours and buy or sell positions at the current market price.
It’s also possible to place limit orders to only trade at or within a certain trading range.
Stash has two trading windows in the morning and two in the afternoon, for example. Acorns only offers ETF portfolios.
$1 Fractional Investing
Being able to buy stock and ETF shares with as little as $1 means Robinhood has the lowest investment minimum and there are no trade commissions or monthly service fees. The other platforms require a $5 balance which is also reasonable.
Investors that want to trade using margin will need to upgrade to Robinhood Gold for $5 per month. The margin loan interest rates are lower than most brokerages.
Other Gold features include Morningstar research reports, Level II trading data and higher instant deposit amounts. Upgrading doesn’t provide interactive charts or technical analysis. Another free online broker is more likely to offer more robust charting tools and third-party analyst reports.
Stash can be a good option for beginner investors because of its educational tools and Stock-Back® rewards program1.
The Stock-Back® Card1 can be a great reason to choose Stash. The benefits of this Card can easily offset the monthly fee.
Most purchases earn 0.125% at select brands. For example, Amazon purchases earn Amazon stock and Starbucks trips can earn Starbucks stock.
All investors have access to the Stash Learn library that’s an online knowledge base covering investment basics. New investors can learn how stocks, ETFs and the stock market work.
Term Life Insurance
The bottom plan comes with $1,000 in term life insurance from Avibra6. Premium Stash+ members get up to $10,000 in coverage with an active subscription.
What is the Best Investing App?
Who wins the Stash vs Robinhood vs Acorns battle? The winner depends on your investment needs and here is a brief assessment.
Choose Acorns if you only want to invest in the prebuilt index ETF portfolios instead of a self-directed portfolio. The banking and shopping rewards can add additional value.
- Automatic portfolio rebalancing
- Shopping rewards
- Round up debit and credit card purchases
- Cannot invest in individual stocks or ETFs
- Monthly fee
Consider Robinhood to be able to invest as little as $1 in stocks and ETFs that other brokerage may require you to buy whole shares.
The platform can also be easier to use than other apps. But you should be cautious of the “gamification” factor that can make investing seem like entertainment and forget that you can lose real money.
- Many stock and ETF investment options
- $1 fractional investing
- Cash management account earns interest
- No monthly fees
- Basic charting and research tools
- No robo-advisor feature
- No shopping rewards like Stash and Acorns
Stash is a better option for new investors that want the Stash Learn educational resources while having access to individual stocks and ETFs.
- Can invest in stocks and ETFs
- Smart Portfolio robo-advisor
- Learning library
- Earn stock rewards on Stock-Back® Card1 purchases
- Monthly plan fee
- Fewer sector ETFs than traditional online brokers
- Limited research tools
These three investment apps all make it easy to invest small amounts of money and enjoy the rewards of a cash management account. Comparing the investment features and monthly fees can help you pick the best platform to start investing more frequently.
Paid non-client endorsement. See Apple App Store and Google Play reviews. View important disclosures.
Nothing in this material should be construed as an offer, recommendation, or solicitation to buy or sell any security. All investments are subject to risk and may lose value.
1 Stash Banking services provided by Stride Bank, N.A., Member FDIC. The Stash Stock-Back® Debit Mastercard® is issued by Stride Bank pursuant to license from Mastercard International. Mastercard and the circles design are registered trademarks of Mastercard International Incorporated. Any earned stock rewards will be held in your Stash Invest account. Investment products and services provided by Stash Investments LLC and are Not FDIC Insured, Not Bank Guaranteed, and May Lose Value.
2 All rewards earned through use of the Stash Stock-Back® Debit Mastercard® will be fulfilled by Stash Investments LLC and are subject to Terms and Conditions. You will bear the standard fees and expenses reflected in the pricing of the investments that you earn, plus fees for various ancillary services charged by Stash. In order to earn stock in the program, the Stash Stock-Back® Debit Mastercard must be used to make a qualifying purchase. Stock rewards that are paid to participating customers via the Stash Stock Back program, are Not FDIC Insured, Not Bank Guaranteed, and May Lose Value.
3 1% Stock-Back® rewards available only on Stash+ ($9/mo) and only for client’s first $1,000 of Qualifying Purchases in each calendar month program. See Terms and Conditions for details.
4 For a complete list of fees please see the Deposit Account Agreement for details. Get fee-free transactions at any Allpoint ATM, see the app for location details, otherwise out-of-network ATM fees may apply. For a complete list of fees please see the Deposit Account Agreement for details.
5 Early access to direct deposit funds depends on when the payor sends the payment file. We generally make these funds available on the day the payment file is received, which may be up to 2 days earlier than the scheduled payment date.6 Group life insurance coverage provided through Avibra, Inc. Stash is a paid partner of Avibra. Only individuals who opened Stash accounts after 11/6/20, aged 18-54 and who are residents of one of the 50 U.S. states or DC are eligible for group life insurance coverage, subject to availability. Individuals with certain pre-existing medical conditions may not be eligible for the full coverage above, but may instead receive less coverage. All insurance products are subject to state availability, issue limitations and contractual terms and conditions, any of which may change at any time and without notice. Please see Terms and Conditions for full details. Stash may receive compensation from business partners in connection with certain promotions in which Stash refers clients to such partners for the purchase of non-investment consumer products or services. Clients are, however, not required to purchase the products and services Stash promotes.
6 Group life insurance coverage provided through Avibra, Inc. Stash is a paid partner of Avibra. Only individuals who opened Stash accounts after 11/6/20, aged 18-54 and who are residents of one of the 50 U.S. states or DC are eligible for group life insurance coverage, subject to availability. Individuals with certain pre-existing medical conditions may not be eligible for the full coverage above, but may instead receive less coverage. All insurance products are subject to state availability, issue limitations and contractual terms and conditions, any of which may change at any time and without notice. Please see Terms and Conditions for full details. Stash may receive compensation from business partners in connection with certain promotions in which Stash refers clients to such partners for the purchase of non-investment consumer products or services. Clients are, however, not required to purchase the products and services Stash promotes.
A “Smart Portfolio” is a Discretionary Managed account whereby Stash has full authority to manage. Diversification and asset allocation do not guarantee a profit, nor do they eliminate the risk of loss of principal. Stash does not guarantee any level of performance or that any client will avoid losses in their account.
Ancillary fees charged by Stash and/or its custodian are not included in the subscription fee.