Robinhood vs. Acorns vs. M1 Finance – How to Choose the Best Investment App

Robinhood vs Acorns vs M1 Finance

Robinhood vs Acorns vs M1 Finance – Compare the 3 Best Investment Apps

Choosing an investment app can be a challenge. With micro investing apps popping up regularly and robo-advisor apps offering broad services, how can you choose the best investing app or robo-advisory app for you from among the top three – Robinhood, Acorns, or M1 Finance?

Readers have asked:

  • Is Acorns better than Robinhood?
  • What’s the difference between Acorns and Robinhood?
  • Is M1 Finance better than Acorns?

This article will answer those questions and many more.

Discover how to invest smarter, with this comparison of the top 3 investing apps: Robinhood vs Acorns vs M1 Finance.

But first, before we drill into the comparison, you need to decide what type of investor you are.

  • Do you want help picking your investments and managing your account?
  • Are you a do-it-yourself investor and want the best investment app?
  • Are you a small investor seeking a way to get into the stock market with your spare change?

By answering these questions first, your decision about whether to choose Acorns vs Robinhood vs M1 Finance will be much easier.

*This article contains affiliate links to help pay for this website. That said, our reviews are held to the highest standards of honesty.

We’ll compare each robo-advisor app by features so you can decide which ones are most important to you. Then the decision between Robinhood or Acorns or M1 Finance will be much easier.

 Robinhood
AcornsM1 Finance
OverviewFree stock, crypto, ETF trading platform.Invest spare change into ETFs for low fee.Invest in stocks and ETFs with free management.
Minimum Zero.Zero.$100.
Fee StructureNo commissions or management fees. $5 per month for Robinhood Gold.$1 per month-Acorns Core. $2-$3 per month more features.No commissions or management fees. $125 for M1 Plus.
Top FeaturesExtended-hours trading. Great investing content.Spare change automatically invested.1000's of investments and pre-made portfolios.
Free ServicesCommission-free trading with Robinhood Cash and Instant.Students with .edu email address can use Acorns Core for free.Commission-free trading and rebalancing.
Contact & Investing AdviceEmail support (M-F) Email or phone, 6:00 AM – 5:00 PM PT weekdays.Email or phone, weekdays.
Investment FundsStocks, options, ETFs and cryptocurrencies.ETFs from Vanguard, Blackrock, and iShares.Stocks, bond funds, ETFs, and more.
AccountsIndividual account. Cash account with debit card.Taxable brokerage, IRA, and checking with debit card.Single and joint taxable brokerage. Roth, traditional, rollover, SEP IRA. Trust. Checking with debit card.
PromotionsOngoing free investment management.Sign up here.Ongoing free investment management.

Robinhood vs. Acorns vs. M1 Finance Overview

Robinhood, Acorns, and M1 Finance each enables investment in exchange traded funds. M1 Finance and Robinhood also offer individual stock investing. While only Robinhood provides options and cryptocurrency trading. 

Both Robinhood and M1 finance are free, for their basic services.

Robinhood, Acorns and M1 Finance also offer cash management, checking, and debit cards.

That’s where the similarities among the three investment apps ends. Next, is an overview of each of the platforms.

M1 Finance

M1 Finance is a customizable robo-advisor that makes it easy for investors to curate their investment portfolios. This free robo-advisor offers pre-made portfolios for those who want to go with a simpler option; however, investors who want full control of their investments will find that M1 Finance offers over 6,000 stocks and diversified  ETFs (exchange traded funds). M1 Finance will rebalance your investment mix back to your preferred allocation.

Acorns

Acorns is both a micro-savings app, and a robo-advisor investment platform all in one.

The Acorns app enables you to save money by collecting what it refers to as virtual spare change. It does this by rounding up your purchases to even numbers, and then moving the change into your investment account. Once there, your account is invested in a professionally managed portfolio of funds that represent thousands of individual securities.

Robinhood

Robinhood offers free trading services designed to help you get started investing immediately, whether you’re new to the game or an experienced investor. Robinhood is fully customizable; investors can choose from thousands of investment options including stocks, funds, options, and cryptocurrency.

Visit the websites now:

robinhood app

Robinhood vs. Acorns vs. M1 Finance Top Features

By understanding what type of investment platform you want the choice between Robinhood, Acorns and M1 Finance will be easy.

Robinhood

Robinhood is best for stock market investors or traders. With access to stocks, funds, cryptocurrency and options, beginner to advanced investors can benefit from Robinhood.

  • Simple and intuitive app for Android or iOS.
  • Cryptocurrency and options trading available (only available at Robinhood).
  • Extended-hours trading.
  • Ability to upgrade to Gold for more features.

Acorns

Acorns is best for the new investor without much investment experience or cash. Acorns helps you get started by converting your change into more money for retirement and other goals. After graduating from Acorns, you might try M1 Finance.

  • Checking account and debit card
  • Acorns round-ups automatically invests the difference between your purchase amount a a dollar. So if your coffee is $2.25, $.75 automatically goes into your acorns account, to be invested when the total reaches $5.00.
  • Acorns Found Money enables certain shopping partners to add money to your investment account.
  • Acorns Later helps you save for retirement.
  • Your Acorns investments are directed to a managed investment account in line with your risk tolerance; conservative through aggressive.
  • Account rebalancing-back to your desired investment mix and risk level.

M1 Finance

M1 Finance is like the best of both worlds. You can invest in individual stocks and funds or managed portfolios from basic stock and bond fund mixes to a hedge fund replica portfolios and more.

  • Pre-built portfolios for retirement, socially responsible investing, income, and more.
  • Customizable – pick your own stocks and funds.
  • Account rebalancing back to your preferred mix of investments.
  • Multiple account types.
  • M1 Spend – cash management.
  • M1 Borrow – low interest rate loans.

Robinhood vs. Acorns vs. M1 Finance – Who Benefits?

M1 Finance

M1 Finance is an ideal robo-advisor for those seeking both pre-made investment portfolios and the ability to choose their own stocks and ETFs. This robo-advisor allows you to buy individual stocks and funds. Like Wealthfront, M1 Finance also offers loans and a bank-like cash account.

M1 Finance Investment Pies – Pre-made Portfolios

M1 Finance
M1 Finance is best for:

  • Investment rebalancing.
  • Free investing and management.
  • Managed portfolios like socially responsible, income, or retirement.
  • A variety of account types including investment, retirement, business and trust.
  • The opportunity to pick and choose from over 6,000 stocks and funds.

Acorns

Acorns is ideal for the new investor, short on cash who want’s to begin dipping her toes into the investment markets. She understands that investing is a sound way to build wealth for goals like retirement, college, or a new home, but doesn’t know where to begin.

Acorns is a good investment platform if:

  • You want a spare change app that automatically invests in the financial markets.
  • You want help saving for retirement with a small amount of money.
  • You’re a college student who want’s to invest for free (no management fee for students with an .edu email address)
  • You want low-fee investment selection, rebalancing, and management.

Click to start building wealth now with Acorns:

Robinhood

Robinhood is designed for the DIY investor who wants free trading throughout the day and after hours. Robinhood is the only app in this comparison that isn’t a robo-advisor and doesn’t offer investment management. Although investors ask, ‘Is Acorns better than Robinhood?’ the better question might be which investment app is best for you?

Robinhood is best for an investor with some experience and wants to manage his or her own investment portfolio.

Robinhood is a good investment platform if:-

  • You want to invest in stocks, funds, options, and cryptocurrency.
  • You’re seeking after hours trading.
  • You’re comfortable managing your own investments.
  • You are okay with only an individual investment account and don’t need a retirement or other type of account.

Robinhood vs. Acorns vs. M1 Finance – Deep Dive

Fees and Minimums

M1 Finance and Robinhood are both free for their basic services.

M1 Finance

M1 Finance is free and does not charge trading or commission fees. The minimum to start investing with M1 Finance is only $100. This puts M1 Finance on the low end of minimums for robo-advisors, bested only by those who boast no minimum investment requirement.

M1 Plus charges $125 per year for investors seeking lower borrowing costs, two daily trading windows, instead of one, and a super charged checking account. The m1 Plus account offers a high yield checking account and a debit card with 1% cash back. Finally, M1 Plus customers get 4 ATM withdrawal fees reimbursed per month.

Robinhood

Robinhood Instant, the basic account type, is also free. 

Robinhood Gold, the premium service costs $5 per month and is available to investors who want more features. Robinhood Gold members get research from Morningstar and larger instant deposits than those available in with the Instant account. With Robinhood Gold, if you use more than $1,000 of margin, you’ll pay 5% yearly interest on the amount you use above $1,000.

Acorns

Acorns Lite, the basic robo-advisor, costs $1 per month regardless of account value and enables round-ups, direct, and recurring investments. If you’re a college student with an .edu email address, the investment service is completely free.

Acorns Personal costs $3 per month. Personal includes a retirement and checking account with debit card, bonus investments and more.

Acorns Family costs $5 per month and includes individual, kids, retirement, and checking accounts along with exclusive offers.

Robinhood vs. M1 Finance

Investment Options

This is where there’s broad distinction between Acorns, Robinhood and M1 Finance.

Acorns Investments

Acorns populates your investment portfolio from among 22 ETFs spanning various asset classes:

  • Large company stocks
  • Small company stocks
  • International large company stocks
  • Socially responsible stocks
  • Socially responsible bonds
  • Government bonds
  • Corporate bonds
  • Real estate stocks

These asset classes are diversified and appropriate for an investor looking for a pre-made investment portfolio. If you want to invest in individual stocks, then consider Robinhood or M1 Finance.

M1 Finance Investments

If you want to create your own combination of investments (or investment pies) you can choose from 4,325 stocks and/or 1999 funds. M1 Finance also offers a stock screener to help you construct your own investment portfolio.

M1 Finance also offers more than 30 pre-made investment portfolios, also called M1 Finance Pies:

  • General Investing – perfect for well-balanced investments that match up with your risk level (like a typical robo-advisor).
  • Retirement.
  • Socially Responsible Investing.
  • Income.
  • Hedge Fund.
  • Industries and Sectors.
  • Just Stocks and Bonds.
  • Other Strategies.

The M1 Finance investments are ideal for the investor that wants to choose their own investments and have them rebalanced automatically. Another advantage of the M1 Finance app is the opportunity to choose pre-made portfolios.

Robinhood Investments

Robinhood offers the greatest number of investments among the three investment apps. Robinhood is designed for the individual investor who wants to buy and sell securities, options, and crypto.

Robinhood offers thousands of investments including:

  • Stocks
  • ETFs
  • Options
  • Cryptocurrency

The difference between Acorns and Robinhood is that Acorns is a beginner investment platform that invests for you. While Robinhood is a DIY investment app for active and experienced investors.

While M1 Finance is like a combination of the two and suitable for both beginner and advanced investors. (I have an account with M1 Finance myself!)

Customer Service

Robinhood, Acorns and M1 Finance all offer email. M1 Finance and Acorns offer phone customer service. As with many finance apps, they rely heavily on the FAQ and email customer service. You can expect a wait for phone representatives at M1 Finance and Acorns.

M1 Finance offers onboarding assistance by phone, especially helpful when learning a new online investment tool.

Robinhood has received many complaints about the inability to reach customer service and the temporary halts on trading certain stocks.

Security

M1 Finance

M1 employs top level security. Your data isn’t stored on any device and all information is encrypted in transit between your computer and M1 as well as on the M1 servers. Your money is insured by SIPC (Securities Investor Protection Corporation) against loss of cash and securities from a brokers failure. It does not protect against normal investment price declines.

M1 Spend and M1 Plus accounts are further insured through Lincoln Savings Bank.

Acorns

The website and app are secured with 256-bit encryption. Only you and Acorns can asccess your personal and financial data. Like M1 Finance and Robinhood, ecurities in your Acorns Invest and Later accounts are protected up to $500,000 against broker failure. Similar to a bank account, deposits in your Acorns Spend account are insured by the FDIC up to $250,000.

Robinhood

Stocks and options (not cryptocurrency) are protected up to $500,000 against company failure, not investment losses.

Your account is protected by the high level BCrypt hashing algorithm and never stored in plain text. Sensitive details are encrypted before stored. The apps use TLS protocol ad banking credentials are only accessed once, during initial set up.

Borrowing

M1 Finance offers borrowing, for any reason, with an account balance of $5,000 or more. Borrowers can access up to 35% of their account value. M1 Plus members are charged only 2% interest for the loan.

Robinhood Gold members have access to borrowing, also called margin. Users can borrow up to $1,000 with no interest charge, after which interest is charged. Typically, users can borrow up to the amount of cash and securities held in the account. The money must be used for investing. Each investment has a specific amount eligible to be bought on margin with borrowed money.

Acorns doesn’t offer margin or borrowing.

Acorns vs. Robinhood vs. M1 Finance Wrap up

If you’ve made it this far, then you probably realize that each of these investment apps is best for a specific type of investors. So, your decision should be easy when deciding which investment app to use.

M1 Finance is best for investors who want pre-made investment portfolios and also have the option to pick and choose individual stocks and funds. Investors seeking a variety of investment accounts should consider M1. M1 Investors appreciate the rebalancing feature, too. The newly updated M1 Finance app is an added bonus!

Acorns is a good investment tool for the newbie with a small amount of cash to invest. New investors will appreciate Acorns automated round up investing and found money features as well as the retirement investing option. The Acorns robo-advisor investment management is best for the new investor, college student, or anyone seeking to get into the financial markets with a small amount of discretionary money. That said, it’s tough to build a substantial amount of money with tiny amounts. So, if you’re using Acorns, consider opening and funding an IRA and don’t rely on the round up for your future financial security.

Robinhood is designed for the investor who wants to buy and sell stocks, funds, options and cryptocurrency. It’s not specifically a day trading app but as a handy way to buy and sell securities for zero commissions. We recommend Robinhood only for intermediate and experienced investors, as investing in the financial markets is risky and requires a level of knowledge and education. Robinhood has experienced some accessibility issues during times of heavy trading.

FAQ

Is Acorns better than Robinhood?

Acorns isn’t better than Robinhood, it’s different. Each investing app is appropriate for a specific type of investor. Robinhood is a platform for you to invest in stocks, ETFs, options, and cryptocurrency. While, Robinhood invests in ETFs in line with your goals and risk tolerance, and manages those investments for you.

What’s the difference between Acorns and Robinhood?

Acorns is a robo-advisor investment manager where your extra cash is automatically invested. While Robinhood is a portal to buy and sell financial securities. Robinhood doesn’t create portfolios of investment for you or offer rebalancing.

Is M1 Finance better than Acorns?

M1 vs Acorns depends on the type of investor. M1 is better for investors that want a more comprehensive platform than Acorns with access to individual stocks and funds. M1 is also good for borrowers. Acorns is best for new investors with a small amount of cash.

Each of these investment apps, has its pros and cons. The best investment app for you is the one that best meets your budget, investment knowledge and individual needs.

Disclosure: Please note that this article may contain affiliate links which means that – at zero cost to you – I might earn a commission if you sign up or buy through the affiliate link. That said, I never recommend anything I don’t  believe is valuable.

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